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After finally beating Astros, Guardians seek encore

A pair of struggling pitchers look to regain their footing at the other’s expense on Sunday afternoon when the visiting Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians conclude their four-game series.

Houston’s Cristian Javier (6-7, 3.24 ERA) is 0-4 with a 5.11 ERA during a five-start winless streak, while fellow right-hander Triston McKenzie (7-8, 3.38) has been battered in back-to-back outings for Cleveland.

The Guardians rebounded from a pair of six-run setbacks that began the series with a 4-1 victory over the Astros on Saturday. Cleveland’s win snapped a seven-game home losing skid to Houston.

Amed Rosario had a two-run single in the second inning on Saturday to hit safely for the 22nd time in his last 27 games. He has seven hits — including three homers — and nine RBIs in his last six games.

“Consistent is a good word. Dependable is another word,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said of Rosario’s recent play. “Tonight, he made some plays that were beyond the norm, but he’s been so consistent. Kid plays every day. Doesn’t take a play off. Doesn’t take an at-bat off. He plays with so much energy.”

Javier, 25, will be tasked with keeping Rosario at bay on Sunday in a bid to end his losing streak.

Javier sustained his latest setback on Tuesday despite allowing just two runs on four hits in six innings of a 2-1 loss versus the Boston Red Sox. He surrendered a solo homer to Rafael Devers, accounting for the seventh time he has been taken deep in his last five outings.

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“Javier was good,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He had good command of his fastball. It was just too much Devers. We were throwing him last year tons of fastballs, and he caught up to some (on Tuesday).”

Javier kept the ball in the park in his last encounter with the Guardians. He scattered three hits and struck out nine batters over 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 win on May 25. Javier is 1-0 with no runs allowed in three career appearances (one start) versus Cleveland.

McKenzie, 25, yielded four earned runs for the second straight outing on Tuesday, a 6-3 setback against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He surrendered a three-run homer to Christian Walker in the first inning before settling down.

“Walking the first two guys in the first inning and allowing a three-run homer, I think, set the tone for the game,” McKenzie said. “It set the team behind. I was kind of unhappy about it.”

“I just think my tempo was a little slow early on. I fell behind some guys. As the game progressed, I definitely caught my tempo,” he added.

McKenzie pitched significantly better in his previous encounter with the Astros, giving them just one run on three hits in seven innings of a 6-1 victory on May 23. He is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts versus the Astros.

McKenzie would be wise to tread carefully around Houston’s Aledmys Diaz, who is 12-for-28 with six extra-base hits (three doubles, three homers) and six RBIs over his last eight games.

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