usatsi-148733901.jpg
USATSI

The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics begin a five-game series Monday night in Oakland and Jose Altuve will not be there. The Astros placed Altuve on the injured list with a knee sprain, the team announced Saturday. He is eligible to return Sept. 14.

"He felt a little better, but can we afford to play short for possibly another week," manager Dusty Baker told reporters, including Mark Berman of KRIV Fox 26, on Saturday. "We're hoping that he's ready to come back before next Sunday -- a couple days before that -- so he can get some swings in and some running in."

The injury is to the same knee Altuve had surgically repaired following the 2018 season. He suffered the injury during an awkward slide into third base Thursday. Altuve had an MRI on Friday, which revealed the sprain. Here's the slide:

Altuve, 30, is having a down season, hitting .224/.284/.322 with three home runs in 35 games. He has been better lately -- Altuve owns a .333/.385/.396 batting line in his last 13 games -- though he was so bad earlier this year he went to Baker and asked to be dropped in the lineup. He hit seventh once and sixth three times last month.

The Astros are 21-16 going into Saturday's doubleheader with the Angels, two games behind the A's in the AL West. Their upcoming series vs. Oakland features a doubleheader Monday and is their final meeting of the regular season. It will be Houston's last best chance to take the division race into their own hands.

Furthermore, the Astros will play a highly anticipated two-game series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles next Saturday and Sunday. The clubs played two games in Houston in July and there were some fireworks following the sign-stealing scandal.