Insane game-ending sequence has Joe Espada, bullpen in Astros fans' crosshairs

The Astros' walk-off loss on Sunday laid bare fans' frustration with both the bullpen and their manager.
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The end of the Houston Astros' matchup with the Angels on Sunday was one of the wilder ones in recent memory. After the Astros' bullpen blew Houston's lead in the eighth inning and allowed LA to tie the game, the bottom of the ninth turned into true nightmare fuel after the Houston went down in order in the top half of the inning.

After getting Jo Adell to fly out for the first out of the inning, Josh Hader then gave up a single to the now inexplicably awesome Kevin Pillar. Then, Logan O'Hoppe, who had terrorized the Astros all game long, sent a long fly ball to left that initially looked like Trey Cabbage had managed to make a great catch, but his collision with the wall caused the ball to come out resulting in a walk-off home run and another loss for the Astros.

Astros manager Joe Espada took strong issue with the result of the play as he argued adamantly that O'Hoppe had passed Pillar on the basepaths during the confusion as to whether or not the ball had been caught.

However, the umpires conferred and ruled that the call stood and that it was a two-run, walk-off homer, and Espada's efforts there did not save him or the Astros' bullpen from Houston fans' wrath.

Another blown lead has Astros fans turning on Espada and the Astros' bullpen

While the Astros' bullpen has been a source of frustration at times for Houston fans this season, things have seemingly come to a head. Josh Hader, who the Astros just signed for a lot of money giving up a walk-off homer to a pretty bad Angels team was bad enough, but fans are also very much over Ryan Pressly and his repeated struggles after being shifted to a setup role.

Pressly's struggles this season have been pretty well-documented at this point. After arguably being the Astros' best reliever since being acquired back in 2018, Pressly lost the closer job to Hader and has looked pretty rough in 2024 with 5.40 ERA, although his 2.63 FIP and solid strikeout rate points to a fair bit of bad luck this season.

However, the bullpen isn't the only target of fans' ire as they are also turning on manager Joe Espada for his stubborn adherence to using struggling guys like Pressly, Jose Abreu, and Chas McCormick with the team failing to make up enough ground. In many ways, these criticisms are beginning to mirror the critiques of Dusty Baker's tenure as manager, which have been magnified by the fact that the Astros haven't been winning nearly as much.

Time will tell if Espada and the bullpen can make the necessary adjustments to start winning close games more consistently again. Until then, expect Astros fan discontent to only get louder and louder.

More Astros News from Climbing Tal's Hill