After watching Zack Greinke deliver for eight innings in a manner befitting a staff ace, Astros manager Dusty Baker spent the top of the ninth inning Sunday hoping that lightning wouldn’t strike in the same location three times.
Following consecutive extra-inning losses in which his bullpen blew late leads, Baker tried to remain positive while reliever Andre Scrubb surrendered two home runs in the ninth before finally securing a 7-4 victory over the San Diego Padres that enabled the Astros to avert a three-game interleague series sweep. Trailing by six runs entering the ninth, the Padres had the tying run on deck when the final out was recorded.
Greinke limited the exposure for the Astros’ scuffling bullpen by working eight innings of one-run ball. With the Boston Red Sox set to visit Houston for a four-game series starting Monday, the Astros sorely needed Greinke to pitch in a manner that would spare their relievers.
“This guy has been around. He knows what the team needs,” Baker said. “He knew we needed him to go deep into the game. This is what aces do. They come through at the right time.
“We badly needed this to give our bullpen a rest because we didn’t have four guys (available). Hopefully, this one day’s rest will help. We need another good day (Monday) to get back into sync.”
Greinke realized the need to pitch effectively and deep into the game on Sunday. He didn’t focus on a particular number of innings but did recognize that some sort of length would help.
“I was kind of just planning on trying to do what I could,” Greinke said.
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (3-2, 3.22 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros. It will mark the first start for Urquidy since he landed on the 10-day injured list with right posterior shoulder discomfort on May 14. Prior to his IL stint, Urquidy had recorded four consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs, posting a 3-0 record and 1.52 ERA with a .176 opponent batting average during that stretch. He will face Boston for the first time in his career.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 5.06 ERA) will start for the Red Sox on Monday. Rodriguez is winless over his last three starts, posting an 0-3 record and 7.80 ERA while allowing opponents a .963 OPS. He worked a season-low four innings in his previous start, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts in a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 23. Rodriguez is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA over four career starts against the Astros.
Rodriguez was the scheduled starter Sunday against the Miami Marlins before the finale of that three-game series was postponed due to inclement weather.
The Red Sox will arrive in Houston riding a three-game winning streak, with their victory over the Marlins Saturday coming with bench coach Will Venable at the controls. Boston manager Alex Cora missed the game to attend his daughter’s high school graduation in Puerto Rico.
“With the work the staff did and of course the players … we knew we were in a good spot,” Venable said. “The staff did an amazing job keeping up locked in on what we were supposed to be locked in on.”
–Field Level Media