With a family affair going down at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, we saw Lourdes Gurriel Jr. comfort his brother Yuli after an error and a first-time home run from Cavan Biggio in the ballpark that he grew up in. All around, there were some highs on both sides, but with the Houston Astros‘ bullpen continuing to blow close games, the Brooks Raley–Joe Smith experiment needs to end.
As Cristian Javier didn’t have an outstanding outing either, the right-hander has been in the shadow of his “coffee stain game.” In his last two starts, Javier has surrendered eight hits (three home runs) to his eight runs, while also walking six batters. The YouTube Player of the Game peaked in his start against the Los Angeles Angels, but why has he also fallen off? A question for another time.
With the bullpen being limited on high-leverage arms, why are Brooks Raley and Joe Smith still getting nods?
While the three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday was granted mostly to Smith for allowing it, the two runners on base were allowed by Raley. This issue is starting to sound like a broken record with each close game coming down to either one of these pitchers allowing a huge knock.
In the ninth inning, there was an error committed by Gurriel at first, but this placed two runners on for Raley. With matchups being in play for most of the Astros’ moves, Raley pitched the minimum against one left-hander and two right-handers (one pinch hitting for a left-hander). At the time, it did look like a decent idea of matching up arms against bats, but with Ryne Stanek showing more high-leverage ability, why isn’t he used at all?
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With Smith entering the game with one out, the sidewinder was able to pull out another one until he gave up a Texas Leaguer of a home run to Marcus Semien that only traveled 349 feet. While only being a home run at Minute Maid Park, it was a good swing against a good pitch. The sense of being unlucky swarms around certain pitches and swings these days, but at a certain point, Smith and Raley need to stop allowing base runners in the first place.
Raley has trekked his way to 9.24 ERA through 12.2 innings this year, with Smith tossing a 7.84 ERA through 10.1 innings. You can call this a small sample size, but it is getting tiring to watch, and with a few arms still on the market, the Astros would be behooved to go grab one sooner rather than later.
Manager Dusty Baker’s bullpen decisions have been a questing idea this past month, and in some ways, during his tenure with the Astros. Even if these two are veteran arms, they haven’t proved high-leverage value thus far. While the bullpen is still banged up, there needs to be a diagnosed section of high-leverage arms that are not Raley and Smith. Even in non-save situations, the use of Ryan Pressly shouldn’t be shot down, and while on the same rest of Raley and Smith, Stanek was available in the pen.
The Astros are back on the field on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. As they look to win a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays, Zack Greinke will matchup against right-hander Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut.