Lindstrom falls on the sword

Shortly after Matt Lindstrom was traded to the Astros, someone who had covered him in Florida told me he was one of the most stand-up guys you could find. After dealing with the incredibly stand-up Brad Lidge for several years, I was somewhat curious at how Lindstrom would handle failure, and he’s definitely cut from the same cloth as Lidge.

Lindstrom was waiting for reporters when the clubhouse opened following Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in the Braves, a game in which he gave up two homers in the ninth inning to blow his sixth save of the season and second in five days.

“I’m just devastated,” said Lindstrom, who had allowed only two homers in 42 1/3 innings this year prior to Tuesday. “J.A. [Happ] pitched a great game, the guys battled back, so it’s really tough right now to swallow. I don’t even know what to say, except I take responsibility for this and I look forward to getting back here tomorrow and work on what’s going on with my mechanics so I can get my location back.”

Astros manager Brad Mills and Lindstrom’s teammates rallied around the normally reliable closer, who squandered a save on Friday in Milwaukee in his previous save chance. It was only the second time in his career he’s allowed two homers in a game.

“We all struggle sometimes and he’s our closer, and if we’re up tomorrow by one I hope he comes into the game,” said rookie third baseman Chris Johnson, who continued his torrid second half by going 3-for-4 to raise his average to .366. “He’s our closer. We want him out there.”

Mills didn’t hesitate when asked if he has considered moving Brandon Lyon into the closer’s role.

“Not at all,” he said. “He’s the guy.”

Lindstrom has been dealing with back spasms for the last few weeks, and he’s understandably reluctant to use it as an excuse. But the Astros need to figure out how much it’s affecting his performance and, if it is, try to map out a plan to get him better.

When the hard-throwing Lindstrom is on his game, he proved he’s a capable Major League closer. The task now is to get him back to that form after Tuesday’s ninth-inning nightmare.

“It’s nothing you want to experience, but that’s a crazy game,” he said. “That’s a good fastball-hitting team in Atlanta, and you know that I’m going to go out there and throw fastballs and it’s up to me to make the location, so I didn’t get the job done tonight.

“The biggest disappointment for me is making my team go out there. They were battling all game and it takes two minutes to ruin it. Those guys battled hard all night, and that’s the toughest thing.”

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