Sunday afternoon’s events began exactly the way Houston Astros‘ starting pitcher Erik Bedard had feared – two walks followed by a three-run homer by AJ Pierzynski in the first inning.
Following the immediate outburst of runs by the Texas Rangers, Bedard settled himself for the remainder of his outing. He went 6.1 innings which was deep enough to allow his bullpen to be able to execute in their practiced fashion in short periods of time, allowing them to use all of their power in bursts.
The Astros bullpen has very much slowed down of late, being patient and deliberate to the point of wasting time. There were times late in the game that the fans were audibly bored, and it’s not clear if this is a ploy to distract the batter or just their own meditation. Whatever the motive, things definitely need to improve in the Astros bullpen, which is ranked last in the American League with an ERA of 4.99. The starting pitchers are actually ranked 12th out of 16, but the ‘pen ERA brings the entire pitching staff down to overall last place as well. Lucas Harrell, Friday’s hapless villain, was dropped down to the bullpen, where coach Bo Porter wants him to work on his fastball control.
The Rangers scored all of their runs from homers, as has come to be expected. The game was far from pretty, with errors, pick-offs and sliding past the bases stealing the show. The winning run by the Rangers was actually unearned for Bedard, because it came from a runner who reached on a routine ground ball to Jose Altuve, who instead let the ball crawl under his glove and between his legs for the club’s 68th error, most in the league.
The Rangers were 46-0 this season when going into the ninth inning with the lead, and All-Star closer Joe Nathan tacked on yet another. They are now tied with the Oakland Athletics atop the AL West, but it’s clear now that the Astros are going to be a huge factor in who wins the division.