(SportsNetwork.com) - The team with the best record in the American League shoots for a fifth straight win on Sunday afternoon as the Houston Astros entertain the Toronto Blue Jays in the finale of a four-game set at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros, leaders in the AL West by 4 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, recorded three home runs for the second straight game on Saturday as they slipped by Toronto by a final of 6-5. Chris Carter, who struck out three times, delivered a three-run home run for the hosts, while Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez also went deep in the victory.
"I try to hit the ball hard and whatever happens, happens," Carter stated. "I'm swinging better now, I'm seeing better pitches. I think things are about to turn around for me."
Houston hitters showed that it was all or nothing at the plate however, as they struck out 13 times.
Starting pitcher Scott Feldman picked up his third win as he permitted three runs on five hits and three walks, fanning 10 over the course of 6 2/3 innings. Luke Gregerson claimed his ninth save, although he did surrender two runs in his one inning of action.
Toronto hitters, responsible for 15 strikeouts of their own, were led by Edwin Encarnacion who used his only at-bat to produce a two-run home run. Russell Martin notched a triple and two RBI for a club that is now five games out of first in the AL East and dealing with a four-game slide as they continue to struggle away from home.
Marco Estrada fanned eight during his five innings of action, but he failed to factor into the decision as he allowed two runs on three hits and four walks. Instead, it was Jeff Francis who was saddled with his second defeat as he gave up two runs and failed to record a single out in his relief of Estrada.
Taking the mound for the Jays this afternoon will be 16-year veteran Mark Buehrle. The left-hander, who has a career mark of 4-0 with a minuscule 0.89 ERA in four all-time appearances against Houston, last pitched on Tuesday against Baltimore and picked up his second straight win in the process.
Buehrle lasted six innings versus the Orioles on the road, permitting only two runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out four. It was the second win of the season for the hurler versus the O's.
While opponents have managed to have their way with Buehrle in many situations in 2015, allowing opponents to hit .348 against, he needs just three strikeouts to reach 1,800 for his career.
As for the Astros, they are putting their faith in Collin McHugh, now in his fourth major league campaign. The right-hander from Berry College suffered his first loss of the season on Tuesday when he surrendered seven runs against San Francisco, although only three of them were earned. Able to make it through only 4 2/3 innings, McHugh walked two and fanned three in the losing cause.
This will be just the second appearance for McHugh versus Toronto, after failing to earn a decision in his first experience.
McHugh will be facing a Toronto lineup that is first in the league in runs scored with 198 and is fifth in home runs with 43. Setting the pace in the American League in the home run department is Houston with 55 in 37 games.