Astros’ closer Luke Gregerson has eleven saves in twelve chances this season, and even though he has a 3.86 ERA on the season, there is no better option for Houston than Gregerson with the game on the line. For starters, the Astros have won every game that he’s appeared in, going 19-0. He holds a 2-0 record on the season, and while one of those wins is due to his lone blown save on the year against Oakland on April 24th, the team got the win and that’s what really matters.
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With the game on the line Saturday afternoon, I, like many Astros fans, was a bit squeamish when Gregerson entered the game in Detroit with the Hinchmen clinging to a one-run lead. In 6 2/3 innings this month, Gregerson has given up six runs on nine hits and four walks, so at the very least this was sure to be an adventure. Well, no. The righty struck out two, needing just 17 pitches (11 strikes) to retire the side in order.
This got me to thinking. If memory serves, the outings Gregeron has struggled in have been the ones in which he has a bit of a lead to work with. So I put this theory to the test, and sure enough that’s exactly the case. In games this month where he has allowed runs, the Astros have held leads of 6-2 (May 19th vs Oakland), 6-3 (May 16th vs Toronto) and 4-1 (May 1st vs Seattle). In each of these games, Gregerson had at least a three run lead to work with, and was likely just trying to get the ball put in play. When your main pitch is a slider, this can be a dangerous proposition. Float one of those bad boys up to the plate and the game will suddenly be a bit closer.
By comparison, in seven one-run games that Gregerson has come in to, he’s allowed three hits and struck out six while not allowing a single run. He has made some games one-run games by pitching his way into trouble, but the games that he’s entered with only one run to play with, he’s been everything A.J. Hinch was hoping for when he named him the Astros’ closer.
The Astros’ bullpen has had quite the turnaround this season compared to seasons of recent memory, and with a closer that has thrived in the late innings with the game on the line, that success should continue.