Astros turn to McCullers against Orioles' Asher in finale

HOUSTON -- The Astros will close their 10-game homestand with right-hander Lance McCullers on the mound opposite Baltimore Orioles right-hander Alex Asher in Sunday's series finale at Minute Maid Park.

McCullers (5-1, 2.43 ERA) will carry a scoreless innings streak of 22 into his 11th start of the season, a span that includes him not having allowed an earned run over his last four starts for the Astros (34-16).

McCullers is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his career against the Orioles with 21 strikeouts over 14 innings. He endured a wild performance against Baltimore on May 26, 2016, allowing just one run on one hit while also recording 10 strikeouts and issuing six walks while tossing 108 pitches over five innings in a 4-2 victory.

Asher (1-2, 2.17 ERA) will make his third start of the season, his first since replacing veteran righty Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation.

Asher will not only make his first career appearance against the Astros, Sunday will mark his first outing against an American League West opponent.

The Orioles (25-22) are in need of a breakthrough, whether from Asher or their offense. Baltimore dropped its sixth consecutive game on Saturday night and has scored more than three runs just once during that skid, a 14-7 setback against the Minnesota Twins on May 22.

"It doesn't happen in one game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of a collective rebound by the offense. "It doesn't always work that way. We have to have cooperation from the other club, and they're not going to. That's a really good team over there with good pitching and a lot of ways to beat you."

With both members of their starting battery returning from the disabled list Saturday, the Astros could easily evaluate how left-hander Dallas Keuchel was feeling after being sidelined for 10 days with a pinched nerve in his neck.

The evaluation of catcher Brian McCann had the potential to be a bit trickier, that was until McCann took a foul tip off his facemask in the seventh inning. McCann had been on the 7-day concussion DL after suffering a concussion in New York against the Yankees on May 14. McCann finished 0-for-2 with a pair of walks.

"We always get nervous the first time back and as a catcher you're not going to be able to avoid foul tips or balls in the dirt that kick up," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, a former catcher. "And I think all of us, including McCann, needed a test. Are you OK? How does it feel?

"After not catching for those seven days just the speed of the game and the physicality of catching can take its toll on him. But he seemed to be OK. We checked with him and he finished the game."

Said McCann after the Astros' 5-2 victory: "It felt great. The game slowed down probably after the third or fourth inning. So, it was good to get back out there and get another win."
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