Another day, another left-hander.
That's the situation facing the Astros on Sunday, when they host the White Sox for the third of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park. For the first time since 1989, Houston finds itself squaring off against a southpaw in every game of a four-game set.
On Sunday, the White Sox will put Hector Santiago on the mound against the Astros and fellow lefty Dallas Keuchel. While Chicago has dropped three straight, 13 of 17 and 11 of their last 12 road games, Houston has won three straight and 10 of 17.
The unusual situation is forcing Astros manager Bo Porter into some difficult lineup decisions. Although the Astros have hit better against lefties as a team, regulars Carlos Pena and Jason Castro have struggled in those matchups over the course of their careers.
Porter elected to have those two on the bench on Friday, but they were back in the lineup on Saturday and likely will remain there for the rest of the series. The strategy worked on Saturday, with Castro homering off John Danks and Pena reaching base via a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
"Knowing that we got four lefties and we have Carlos and Jason who are everyday guys, I had to pick a spot to give one of the lefties off, for sure," Porter said. [Friday starter Chris] Sale made the most sense. Both of those guys are back. We'll stick with the guys we have.
The flip side of the situation is that the Astros' right-handed batters also get plenty of chances against White Sox lefties. They entered Saturday hitting .288 with a .781 OPS in those matchups.
"It should help you stay on the ball more as a righty," Porter said. "It's rare to have a four-game series where you get all lefties. It's actually the first time I've ever seen it as a player or coach. I've seen four righties before. This is definitely something that can help our right-handed hitters."
Santiago (2-4, 3.12 ERA) has a strange set of splits this season. Left-handers are hitting .302 against him, compared with .195 for right-handers, but the righties account for all six home runs Santiago has surrendered.
The 25-year-old has bounced between the rotation and bullpen, making six starts and 11 relief appearances. As a starter, he owns a 2.67 ERA, holding opponents to a .210 average and striking out 37 in 33 2/3 innings. On Sunday against Oakland, he made his first start since May 22 and gave up one earned run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings.
"From the way it looks, I guess it's not that hard, but I've adapted to it," Santiago said of moving back and forth. "I've been doing it my whole life, from high school to college, and I've kind of gotten used to the role."
White Sox: Where are the homers?
The White Sox offense thrived on the long ball last season, finishing third in the Majors with 211, while placing seventh in runs scored. But this season, Chicago has scored the fewest runs in the American League and smacked the third-fewest home runs.
Adam Dunn blasted his 18th on Saturday, and Alex Rios has 11, but nobody else on the team has more than seven. Paul Konerko and Dayan Viciedo, who combined for 51 roundtrippers a year ago, have 10 so far.
"Last year, when we hit homers, we scored a lot of runs," manager Robin Ventura said. "Toward the end of last year, when we weren't hitting them as much, we weren't getting that big two-out hit with guys on second base. That can pile up, it wears on your nerves. You try and hit another homer, you try and do things, but it's all about the process and being able to have a tough at-bat and hit something hard. It's frustrating, but you have to fight through it and continue to have the process of your at-bat than results-based always."
Astros: Keuchel riding hot streak
• Keuchel is 3-3 with a 4.37 ERA this season, but he has been stellar in his past three starts. He has posted a 1.89 ERA over 19 innings, striking out 13 and walking two.
On Monday, Keuchel held the Mariners to two runs on seven hits in six innings. He walked one and notched a career-high six strikeouts.
• Closer Jose Veras went through a rough patch in late May, giving up a run in three of four appearances, suffering a blown save and two losses. Since then, the right-hander has logged seven consecutive scoreless outings, with four hits allowed and 12 strikeouts.
On Saturday, he notched his 13th save in 16 chances. In 30 innings, he has a 3.60 ERA and 36 strikeouts.
• From May 15 on, the Astros are 15-14, a better record than teams such as the Rangers, Yankees, Nationals and Giants.
• The Astros entered Saturday ranked seventh in the Majors in batting average against lefties and 11th in OPS.