Mike Fiers got a much-deserved week off after becoming the first Houston pitcher in almost 22 years to throw a no-hitter.
After allowing no earned runs in his previous two starts, Fiers returns to the hill looking to help the visiting Astros keep the Minnesota Twins from continuing their surge Saturday night.
Until his career-high 134-pitch, no-hit performance last Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Fiers (6-9, 3.63 ERA) had never recorded a complete game in 58 starts over five seasons. Though six Astros combined for a no-hitter in June 2003, Fiers is the first individual in club history to accomplish that feat since the late Darryl Kile on Sept. 8, 1993.
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Acquired from Milwaukee along with All-Star Carlos Gomez on July 30, Fiers also is the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter after switching teams in the same season since Jim Bibby in 1973.
"I have always thought of myself as a big-league pitcher, and I thought of myself as being one to this point," Fiers said. "It's a dream to throw a no-hitter."
More importantly for the AL West-leading Astros (71-58), Fiers is 1-0 with an 0.43 ERA in three starts since he allowed six runs, seven hits and walked three over five innings in relief at Texas in his Houston debut Aug. 3.
"He might be unheralded and he might be under the radar or he might not be a household name, but you talk around the league and he's got plenty of double-digit punchout games," manager A.J. Hinch told MLB's official website. "He's been very, very effective the last couple of years."
Fiers certainly has been while going 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts against Minnesota (66-62), two of which have come this season.
It's uncertain if he will face rookie third baseman Miguel Sano, who sat Friday with a sore hamstring.
"I think it's been a gradual thing as far as I know," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Sano, who he hopes will be available to DH on Saturday. "I hope it's day to day."
Sano is batting .289 with 12 homers and 38 RBI in 47 games.
Without Sano, Minnesota managed three hits Friday but still won for the seventh time in eight games, 3-0. Eduardo Nunez clubbed a two-run homer for the Twins, who are one-half game behind Texas for the AL's second wild-card spot.
Houston also could be without its own impressive rookie if shortstop Carlos Correa misses a third consecutive game with his own hamstring issue. With a four-game lead in the West, however, the Astros have somewhat of a luxury to rest one of their top players.
"At this juncture of the season, he's too important, these games are too important," Hinch said. "There's no reason to risk furthering a little bit of soreness."
Jose Altuve is in the Astros' lineup, and batting .352 in 25 games this month. He's a lifetime .365 hitter in 12 games against the Twins, who hand the ball to Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.69).
Facing Houston for the first time since 2013, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his last six starts. However, he lasted 4 2-3 innings while yielding three runs and nine hits during Sunday's 4-3, 12-inning victory at Baltimore.
Pelfrey is 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 11 home starts.