Coming off a tough series against the red-hot Royals, the Twins will turn to right-hander Samuel Deduno to help snap a four-game losing streak.
Deduno will take the mound for the Twins on Friday and face the Astros for the first time in his career as Houston makes its first trip to Target Field. He will be opposed by Jarred Cosart, who will make his fourth Major League start.
The two teams will be meeting for the first time since 2009 -- and they'll play another three-game set at Houston in early September. Minnesota leads the all-time series, 11-9.
Deduno has won three straight starts -- all on the road -- including a scoreless seven-inning performance on Saturday against Seattle. He allowed three hits, three walks and struck out six, matching a season high.
"Sammy has been throwing great," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been our best starter for a little while here. He's going deep into games. His ball is moving all over the place."
Deduno (7-4, 3.18 ERA) has gone at least six innings in eight straight starts. In his last three outings, he allowed just three runs on 13 hits in 21 innings.
"He's got so much movement, they can't get locked in on anything," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "You rarely see guys square the ball up off of him. He's fun to watch."
The Twins need a spark on offense after being outscored 24-11 during their four-game losing streak. The Royals series was the eighth time they've been swept this year. They dropped to 15 1/2 games back in the American League Central and are 6-7 out of the All-Star break.
Minnesota finished 9-17 in July -- their worst month of the season. Twins pitchers had a 4.20 ERA, but the offense hit .191 with runners in scoring position.
The Astros are 2-5 to start their 10-game road trip and haven't won consecutive games since taking four straight from June 12-16. They are 6-22 since June 28.
But Cosart, a right-hander, is 1-0 with a 0.86 ERA in his first three starts with the Astros. He's allowed just three runs, two earned, on 13 hits in 21 innings. In his last start, Cosart worked around five walks, giving up just one run on four hits in six innings.
"The confidence level, he had that when he first walked into the clubhouse," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "When you watch the way he goes about his business every day, this guy has a chance to be a pretty special player. He goes about his business the right way. It's a commitment to excellence, which I think from a teammate's standpoint, guys are actually starting to rub off on each other."
Astros: Altuve, Barnes nursing injuries
Second baseman Jose Altuve and center fielder Brandon Barnes sat out Thursday's game against the Orioles due to nagging injuries.
Altuve might have to miss Friday's game as well, as he deals with a strained left quadriceps, although he was available to hit on Thursday. Barnes was available to run despite lower back tightness that emerged during a swing on Wednesday.
• The Astros' 17 home runs by their catchers are tied with the Blue Jays for first in the American League.
Jason Castro leads the way with 13, including Wednesday night's fourth-inning grand slam, and Carlos Corporan has four homers in 33 starts. All of his home runs have either given the Astros a lead or tied the game.
Twins: Hicks, Diamond demoted
Minnesota optioned starting center fielder Aaron Hicks and starting pitcher Scott Diamond to Triple-A Rochester following Thursday afternoon's game against the Royals, in which Diamond took the loss. The lefty is 5-10 with a 5.52 ERA, while Hicks is hitting .192 as a rookie, including .163 since the All-Star break.
The Twins recalled Oswaldo Arcia from Rochester to take Hicks' spot. The 22-year-old went 15-for-40 (.375) with four home runs in 13 games since returning to Rochester on July 19. He has hit .257 with six home runs in 59 games for the Twins this season.
"Arcia went down and was swinging pretty good. He's fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "He'll bring some life to us hopefully, and put some swings on and hopefully help us drive in some runs."
• Second baseman Brian Dozier returned to the Twins' lineup on Thursday and went 1-for-4 with a walk against the Royals to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He missed two games with a bone bruise in his left knee, which led to back spasms while the club was in Seattle.
• Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman is 7-for-12 in his first four starts since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. One of the seven hits was his first big league homer on Wednesday night.
• Twins infielder Jamey Carroll has hit in eight of his last 11 games. He's batting .250 (10-for-40) with three RBIs in that stretch.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.