Prior to Sunday’s Melancon meltdown, this was looking like the turning point for the Astro pitching staff. Here we will take an in depth look at how the arms of the Astros performed this series:
For starters, pun intended, I cannot stress how great it is to see Norris put together a 6 inning, shut out effort on Thursday. While striking out 7, he was able to limit the Padres to 2 hits while only walking 3. Norris showed that he could control his pitches regardless of the pitch count which was a quality lacking in his previous couple of starts.
Happ followed up the next day with the a start that would generate a win for the Phillies maybe, but his seventh inning led to a few runs that would prevent him from getting the win. Spreading out 7 hits over 7 innings is quite alright, but it just was not enough as the Astros lacked the wood to bring him the W.
Nelson Figueroa has earned himself a pass from me for the week when it comes to criticism after the outing he had on Saturday. Pitching for 6 2/3 innings, he only allowed 2 earned runs and put the Astros in a place to win a game against Matt Latos. After struggling in his previous starts, Figgy showed us why he edged out the competition this spring. We will need to see more starts of this nature in order for him to solidify the fifth spot in the eyes of the fans, but you have to imagine that Mills had a sigh of relief after this gem.
Lastly, Brett Myers had a slightly rougher start to close out the series, only going 6 innings against the Padres Sunday. Myers is a pitcher that is going to give up hits, but his success rests on his lack of long balls allowed. Giving up a couple big shots on Sunday was something that is concerning since he has now given up a homer in 3 straight starts. Bottom line is that 3 ER in 6 innings is a quality start, and Brett did his job. A WHIP of 1.67, though, is something that is going to lead to a break down if he continues to allow the bombs to drop.
The starters finished with a line as follows: 25 2/3 IP, 23 H, 9 BB, 9 ER, 10 R, a 1-1 record, and 3 homers allowed. Posting a 3.156 ERA and 1.25 WHIP should lead to more than just 1 win in a four game set, but their fortune is bound to change if they continue to pitch at this rate. Giving up 8.06 H/9 is crucial, and you can give Bud a lot of the credit when it comes to that statistical success. The strike out rate of 7.01 is a little low due to Wandy lacking from this series, but the outs were achieved when needed.
As for the bullpen, they went from having a spectacular weekend to a decent one. The Sunday loss is just heart breaking as Brett pitched well enough to receive a win, but perhaps we saw why Melancon enjoys pitching in the 7th rather than the 8th. With Wilton Lopez being sent to the DL, Melancon was tapped to be the set up man in the 8th which proved to be gut wrenching as he blew a 2 run lead and failed to get out of the 8th inning. We did, though, get to see the dazzling premier of Jose Valdez who just needed 6 pitches in his major league debut to record 2 strikeouts. If he had the same strike zone as Heath Bell, he may have finished with 3 Ks, but that is neither here nor there.
Thursday’s game was closed out by a good looking Brandon Lyon, as he pitched a perfect ninth in just 8 pitches. Melancon and Abad pitched the 7th and 8th, combing for 3 strikeouts, 1 hit, and 1 walk. The save was Brandon’s second on the year.
Friday’s lowly attended ball game saw Del Rosario and Fulchino keep the damaged controlled in two innings of work, and they only allowed one base runner. DR started the year a little shaky, but has settled in to bring his ERA below 3 on the season after coming home to MMP.
Mark Melancon and Jeff Fulchino relieved Saturday’s game from Figgy, and they decided that no one should see the base paths for the Friars before Lyon came in to close it out for his third save of the year. Fulchino pitched 3 of the games this series, and he only let two men get on base (via walks) in 2 2/3 innings of work. DR and Fulchino are now the only two pitchers on the staff with ERAs below 3 for this bullpen.
The finishing line for the bullpen is as follows: 10 1/3 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 ER, 5 R, 6 Ks, 0 homers, and a 1-1-2 record. A 3.48 ERA is mediocre if you want to depend on your bullpen, but the .97 WHIP is something that will translate into more holds and saves as the season progresses. This staff is young outside of Fulchino and Lyon, so hopefully this better performance can be attested to their settling down as the season advances.
After a day off, we head to New York to face the Metropolitans in a three game set. Wandy, Bud, and Happ will look to continue the success against the ‘Mazings.