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Stars aren't aligned as Astros host Athletics

HOUSTON -- With the All-Star Game fast approaching and the Houston Astros facing the possibility that perhaps one more member of their pitching rotation will join the festivities, manager A.J. Hinch is in a bit of a holding pattern regarding how he will set his rotation coming out of the break.

Right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who worked six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics (51-41) in succession on Monday and Tuesday, were named to the All-Star team Sunday, and right-hander Charlie Morton could be a late roster addition should an injury or lack of availability carve open an additional spot.

Currently, Verlander is following Cole in the rotation, but with Verlander set to pitch on Sunday against his former team -- the Detroit Tigers, he has been ruled out of the exhibition game next Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Cole is set to pitch for Houston (62-32) on Saturday and could work an inning on Tuesday.

"I've started to look at that a little bit and a lot depends on how things play out the next week, the All-Star Game," Hinch said. "I know I'm not using J.V. Whether I pitch Cole, whether anybody else gets in, that'll dictate it. I'm pretty sure I know when Dallas (Keuchel) is going to pitch, when Justin is going to pitch. That will play itself out over the next week."

Right-hander Lance McCullers (10-3, 3.41 ERA) will start for the Astros on Wednesday. Since allowing seven earned runs in a loss to the Cleveland Indians on May 26, McCullers is 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA over his last seven starts, limiting the opposition to a .591 OPS while recording 50 strikeouts over 45 innings during that stretch. He is 4-1 with a 3.46 ERA over seven career starts against Oakland, including three appearances this season that have resulted in three victories.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-3, 3.00 ERA) will start for the Athletics on Wednesday. He is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his two starts since his recall from Triple-A Nashville on June 27 for his fifth stint with the club. Bassitt does not have a decision over two career appearances (one start) against the Astros, both coming in 2015, posting a 1.64 ERA over 11 innings with 13 strikeouts.

Following much consternation after he initially failed to make the team of All-Stars representing the American League, Athletics second baseman Jed Lowrie on Tuesday was named as an injury replacement for Yankees rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres. Lowrie is tied for fourth in the AL with 62 RBI and had already matched his career high of 16 home runs.

Lowrie, in his 11th season, posted a career-best 4.0 bWAR in 2017. Through 89 games, his bWAR stood at 3.4. After recording a 120 OPS+ with the Athletics last year, Lowrie carried a 139 OPS+ into Tuesday, additional confirmation that the 34-year-old is having his best season yet.

"Let's just say the last few days have been an emotional roller coaster," Lowrie said. "I was a little surprised that I didn't get it at first and I'm just happy to be a part of it now.

"I feel like I had a couple good opportunities early in my career and it didn't happen. I feel like with some perseverance, I've worked hard to get to this point. Me being an All-Star has a lot of meaning, but to go for the first time as a 34-year-old is pretty special."
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