Lance McCullers Jr. hopes to save Astros’ bullpen vs. D-backs

MLB Baseball

With their rotation compromised due to injuries, the Houston Astros did their best to piecemeal their way through the opener of their three-game interleague series with the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Astros (87-60) used eight pitchers in a 4-3, 10-inning win Friday, so their bullpen might be taxed when the series continues Saturday night.

Right-handed reliever Brandon Bielak made his first start of the season Friday and tossed 2 2/3 innings for Houston, which played its eighth game in a stretch of 17 without an off day.

“We were mixing and matching the best way we could,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “(The Diamondbacks) present a problem in that they have a whole lot of lefties.”

Left-handers Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley combined to work two critical innings and serve as the bridge between Bielak and the final five relievers. Ultimately, the Astros made it work.

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will start for the host Astros on Saturday.

He is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings over his past five starts, allowing a .620 opponent OPS. The Astros won four of those starts, with McCullers working five scoreless innings and getting a no-decision in the Astros’ 4-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 31.

McCullers is 1-1 with an 8.56 ERA over three career starts against Arizona, including a start on Aug. 5, 2020, in which he allowed eight runs on seven hits with one strikeout over 3 2/3 innings.

Rookie right-hander Humberto Castellanos (2-1, 3.90 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Diamondbacks on Saturday.

Castellanos, who made eight relief appearances with the Astros in 2020 and finished 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, won his previous start against the Mariners on Sept. 11. He allowed three runs on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-3 victory at Seattle.

He is 2-0 with a 4.42 ERA over four starts this season. Signed by the Astros out of Mexico on July 2, 2015, Castellanos made his major league debut against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 4, 2020, working a perfect ninth inning in the Astros’ 8-2 victory.

The defeat Friday was the 100th of the season for the Diamondbacks, who have only 47 wins. It is the second 100-loss season in franchise history, with the current club joining the 2004 team that went 51-111 three years after Arizona won the World Series.

“I don’t think today is any more frustrating than any other one,” said Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner, a three-time World Series champion who noted being part of a 100-loss team for the first time in his 13-year career. “We’ve been on pace to blow past that for quite some time. Unfortunately, it’s not a surprise. It’s not something that anyone was eager to see happen.”

The Diamondbacks played with admirable grit in an attempt to avoid the inevitable. Bumgarner pitched exceptionally, carrying a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, and Arizona clawed back from a 2-1 deficit to force extra innings before taking the lead on a David Peralta single in the 10th.

Ultimately, the Diamondbacks came up short. Houston tied the game in the bottom of the 10th on Jake Meyers’ RBI single, then won it when Arizona’s Tyler Clippard, pitching with the bases loaded, hit Chas McCormick with a pitch.

“It’s like I just bit into an onion,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “That’s how it is every time we lose. Every loss hurts me, it hurts the staff, it hurts the players. We’ve got to understand we’re in this position and not feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to move forward and have a better day tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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