Results tagged ‘ Jose Valverde ’
The Astros were ranked 25th in baseball in the number of innings thrown by their starting pitchers prior to Friday. Astros starters had thrown 646 innings, which was just ahead of the 644 1/3 thrown by the Brewers starters.
Astros starting pitchers went exactly five innings in all four games of the series against the Marlins in Florida, putting a big strain on relief pitchers. The bullpen, which was one of the Astros’ strengths last year, has been ravaged by injuries and overuse.
Jose Valverde, Doug Brocail, LaTroy Hawkins, Chris Sampson, Geoff Geary and Wesley Wright have all spent time on the disabled list year, forcing others into roles they wouldn’t have been in otherwise. Jeff Fulchino and Alberto Arias have been called upon more, but even they haven’t pitched as well as they did earlier.
“We need two or three days in a row of seven innings [from a starting pitcher] and we’ll be in pretty good shape,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “It hasn’t happened too often here lately for us.”
Cooper was undoubtedly cringing when Wandy Rodriguez gave up eight runs in the first inning Friday. He threw seven innings in his previous start Sunday before the run of four consecutive five-inning outings by the starters.
Cooper said trying to identify a pitcher to work in long relief has been difficult. The addition of Yorman Bazardo will help, but the Astros will have to keep him back in case Mike Hampton can’t make his next start.
“Last year, we had Geary and we had Sampson and they both would flip-flop every other day, and they were both strong and did a good job for us,” he said. “This year we had to press Arias into some spots we wouldn’t have used him, as well as Fulchino. Geary’s not here and Sampson was good in the first half and has struggled lately.
“It’s been a little struggle to keep it all mapped out, but that’s still not an excuse. We have to go out and get it done.”
Sampson was sent to Triple-A Round Rock following Thursday’s rough outing in Florida, and Cooper reiterated that he was told by Sampson and the training staff that the right-hander was healthy. Sampson says he hasn’t been 100 percent since coming off the disabled list.
Still, Cooper admitted that perhaps he could have not used him as much.
“I wish we could have given him more rest, maybe, early on and tried to avoid some of this,” he said.
If the Astros’ playoff hopes comes down to the final weekend of the season as they have done so many times in the past, they will be able to point at Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers as perhaps the game that sunk them.
One strike away from polishing off a three-game sweep of the Tigers, Brandon Inge hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Jose Valverde to send Detroit to a win. What makes the loss even more difficult for the Astros is they squandered a great chance to gain ground in the National League Central Division.
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who began Sunday tied for first place, both lost. Instead of being three games out, the Astros remain four games behind the division leaders.
“This one hurts real bad,” manager Cecil Cooper said. “Probably the worst one of the year for me. We had a chance to sweep a very good team. We held them at bay all day with some great pitching and then we let it slip. It hurts real bad. I’m going to say that. Real bad. It was a chance for us to get close to the guys at the top, but we let it slip.”
Now the Astros will play their final road trip prior to the All-Star break, beginning with a four-game series at San Diego that begins Monday. The Astros will play at San Francisco next weekend.
“San Diego is a kind of youngish team with a lot of talent, kind of a mixed grab of talent,” Cooper said. “But I think they’re very capable, but we have to go there and not take them lightly. We have to go there and play hard and aggressive the way we’ve been playing.
“San Francisco has a great pitching staff so we have to go there and be ready to play. It’s a big [road trip].”
And kudos for Russ Ortiz for another well-pitched game. He went a season-high 7 1/3 innings Sunday and allowed two runs on six hits to lower his ERA to 3.36 ERA. The Astros have a tough decision ahead when Mike Hampton comes off the disabled list, but Ortiz has certainly pitched well enough to stay in the rotation.