Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Cleveland was the Astros’ 104th of the season and their eighth straight. It is their longest losing streak of a dismal 2013 season. The bullpen has been a constant source of misery for Astros fans all year, but the relievers have actually pitched better during the current tailspin.
Over the last eight games Astros relievers have allowed only eight runs while pitching a total of 30 innings. That calculates out to a 2.40 ERA. The Astros bullpen ERA has actually dipped below 5.00 for the season. At 4.97 the club still has the highest bullpen ERA in the majors — by far. But at least they are moving in the right direction.
With the expanded September roster the appearances have been spread out a little better. That may or may not have something to do with the improvement. Either way, Kevin Chapman, Josh Fields, Chia-Jen Lo, and Josh Zeid have all held their opponents scoreless since the losing streak started on September 14th. Even Lucas Harrell has stepped up his game. Harrell has pitched twice in that stretch, allowing only two runs in 8 & 1/3 innings. Heck, even Philip Humber managed to avoid embarrassment pitching in a mop-up role in Tuesday’s 10-0 blowout.
Jeff Luhnow has already stated that he will attempt to upgrade the bullpen this offseason. Many of the young relievers on the current roster have to feel like they are battling to save their big league careers. How many of these guys will still be with the organization next spring? That will be something to keep an eye on over the last week of this season.
Losing eight straight is never fun. But the recent performance of the ‘pen gives us a little something to feel good about. The relievers have done a nice job of keeping the Astros in games. The problem has been the offense… and the defense. And the base running. And the starting pitching. Well, I think you get the picture.