Astros bullpen decisions come to haunt them in full-circle moment vs Cubs

The Astros bullpen has been downright awful this season.
Houston Astros pitcher Rafael Montero
Houston Astros pitcher Rafael Montero / Tim Warner/GettyImages

The Houston Astros lost another close game on the road, and the bullpen was a big reason why. The Houston faithful have been told all season not to panic, but after being swept by the Chicago Cubs and losing five straight games, Astros fans are beginning to panic.

The Cubs walked away with a 3-1 victory over the Astros after Rafael Montero and Bryan Abreu tag-teamted the meltdown. Montero allowed the rally to start and Abreu gave up what would be the game-winning home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to Cubs' rookie outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. To be fair, the Astros' bats didn't help the cause, posting just one run on four hits at the Friendly Confines.

To make matters worse, old friend Hector Neris locked down the ninth inning for his third save of the season. Neris now has more saves on the season and a lower ERA than Houston's high-priced closer, Josh Hader. The Astros bullpen is officially a mess.

Astros bullpen woes come to haunt them in full-circle moment vs Cubs

While Justin Verlander scuffled during the first inning, the Houston starter was able to escape the first frame unscathed. That's something Astros' pitchers haven't been able to say of late. But Houston's relief corps was unable to keep the score knotted at one run apiece.

The Astros bullpen is in shambles. Houston's relievers rank 27th in Major League Baseball with a 5.13 ERA. The Astros have blown six saves this season. Crow-Armstrong's round tripper was the 13th big fly surrendered by Houston's bullpen this season. Only four teams in MLB have allowed more home runs after their starter has been pulled.

The Astros went all-in on Hader this offseason, preferring to sign the left-hander to a five-year, $95 million contract. But the Astros lost Kendall Graveman to injury and three of their top relievers to free agency.

Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek all signed elsewhere this offseason. Those three pitchers logged over 180 innings last season. If the Astros were hoping to offset those losses with a pitcher who's been used almost exclusively in the ninth inning over the past two seasons, Houston might have overplayed their hand.

The Astros bullpen is a problem, and they were served a piece of humble pie on Thursday afternoon when Neris walked off the mound as the winner. Houston now heads into the Mexico City Series with the exact same record (7-19) as the hapless Colorado Rockies. Are Astros fans allowed to panic yet?

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