Even with the expanded September roster, Astros skipper Tony Defrancesco will have a hard time fielding a healthy lineup tonight in Cincinnati. Jose Altuve left last night’s game in the third inning with a strained abdominal muscle. Altuve was replaced by Matt Dominguez who has been slowed by a wrist injury. Dominguez was probably going to get the night off, but in the end the Astros were glad he didn’t.
Dominguez connected for a three-run homer in the ninth inning against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, propelling Houston to a 5-3 win. It’s the second straight series the Astros have started with a win. This time they hope to win another game and get their first series victory since August 9 through 11, when they beat the Brewers two out of three.
If Altuve is unable to answer the bell, Defrancesco will be faced with a difficult decision. Who does he put at second base? The Astros are grooming Jimmy Paredes in the outfield, but he just might be the logical choice to fill in for Altuve at 2B. Matt Downs is another possibility.
The Astros infield has been plagued by injuries. Shortstops Jed Lowrie and Marwin Gonzalez are both out. Last night, Lowrie saw his first game action in almost two months when he served as the DH in AA Corpus Christi’s playoff loss to Frisco. Lowrie struck out in each of his four plate appearances and looks to be far from ready to return.
But the Astros injury concerns don’t end there. Tonight’s starting pitcher Bud Norris has recently been battling blister problems. Norris had to leave his last start after only 79 pitches and could be looking at another abbreviated outing. Norris got a no-decision last Sunday against the Reds and today’s starter Bronson Arroyo.
The Astros trainers and medical staff will have their hands full trying to get these guys ready for tonight’s 6:10 CDT start at Great American Ballpark.