MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Houston AstrosJun 3, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros catcher Yainer Diaz (21) celebrates after hitting a home run during the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Following a seven-game road trip during which Yainer Diaz went 2-for-16, Houston manager Joe Espada twice sat the catcher during the Astros’ weekend series against the Minnesota Twins to give Diaz a reset.

Diaz went 0-for-3 in his lone start against the Twins and started the opener of a three-game interleague series with the St. Louis Cardinals in Houston 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Monday. His fourth at-bat represented a massive turnaround.

Diaz clubbed a tiebreaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning to lift the Astros to a 7-4 victory over St. Louis. After dropping back-to-back series against the Seattle Mariners and the Twins, Houston can clinch the three-game set against the Cardinals with a victory on Tuesday.

“It can turn things around quickly,” Espada said of the Diaz home run. “It was a big homer. It was a well-executed changeup that he went and got and kept it fair.

“That stuff right there gets you going. It was a big, big swing, and we needed that.

Trailing 4-3 entering the eighth, the Astros could have been en route to their 14th loss in 19 one-run games. Houston starter Justin Verlander allowed four runs over five laborious innings and the Astros stranded four baserunners total in the sixth and seventh. But then Alex Bregman tied the game with a homer leading off the eighth, and Diaz delivered four batters later.

“Hopefully this can be a catalyst moving forward,” Verlander said. “I know that we’ve struggled late in games, one-run games. … Sometimes you just need the dam to break. And hopefully, this was that.”

Rookie right-hander Spencer Arrighetti (3-5, 5.98 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Tuesday. He twirled six innings in a 4-0 win over the Mariners on Thursday, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out a career-high eight. It marked his second outing of at least six innings and his first quality start.

Arrighetti, who has yet to oppose the Cardinals, is 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA over his past four starts with 26 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Andre Pallante (1-1, 3.94) will make his second start of the season for the Cardinals on Tuesday. In his first start since 2022, Pallante tossed six scoreless innings against the Reds on Wednesday, allowing three hits and three walks with four strikeouts in a 5-3 victory. He was 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA in nine relief appearances before the outing at Cincinnati.

Pallante will make his first career start and second appearance against the Astros. He recorded one out and issued two walks in the Cardinals’ 10-7 loss to Houston on June 28, 2023.

One night after the St. Louis bullpen recorded six scoreless innings in a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the host Philadelphia Phillies, the Cardinals could not preserve a one-run lead on Monday after starter Kyle Gibson departed with two outs in the sixth inning.

With right-handed reliever Ryan Fernandez unavailable, left-hander JoJo Romero was charged with facing a pocket of right-handed hitters in the eighth and surrendered the homers to Bregman and Diaz.

“These guys have been really, really good,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said of his bullpen, “so get some rest and go back at it.”

–Field Level Media

This post was originally published on DeadSpin

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