April 15, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez (43) throws in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Players wore the number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Astros starters spoiled us in the opening series against the Rockies by throwing three consecutive quality starts. However week two was a different tale as only J.A. Happ (twice) was able to lock in a quality start this week. The bullpen once again featured its ups and downs, but for the most part there were more good outings than bad.
J.A. Happ started us off and was the only pitcher to log two starts this week. He was able to keep the trend of quality starts going with his 6 inning 3 run outing in his first start of the week. Happ struck out 5 batters on the evening, and was able to limit his free passes to just 1 which has always been his Achilles heel. Happ featured a fastball (both a two-seam and four-seam fastball), a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. According to Brooksbaseball.net he had the most control of his two-seam fastball throwing a strike 83% of the time, followed by his four-seam at 68.8% of the time, changeup at 66.67%, curveball at 55.56%, and slider at 50%. 8 of the 9 swinging strikes he got came on the fastball (6 on the four-seam and 2 on the two-seam.) He struggled at times in the early going and had a high pitch count early, but he was able to settle in and finish with 92 pitches thrown in his 6 innings.
Happ's second start of the week was more impressive as he was able to strikeout 8 Marlins in 6 innings while limiting them to 2 runs scored. All of his pitches were working, and he had a very good 2-seam fastball on the outing that recorded several swings in misses. In short, outings like this one is why the Astros haven't given up on J.A. Happ yet.
Unfortunately for Astros starters Happ’s performance would be the best of the week. Rookie Kyle Weiland followed and appeared to have some jitters on his first start of the season. It took Weiland a total of 99 pitches to get through his 5 innings of work on the day. He did however come as advertised with great secondary pitches, namely his slider. 74.19% of his sliders were strikes, and 41.94% of those were swinging strikes. Unfortunately control coupled with being too hittable plagued the rest of Weiland’s outing which led to him racking up an extremely high pitch count in his five innings of work.
Lucas Harrell, who was stellar in his debut, fell back down to earth in his second start as his 85 pitches were only able to carry him through the 4th inning. Like Weiland, being too hittable and poor command proved to be Harrell’s culprit in this outing as well. His velocity went unchanged from the first game, and he still had plenty of movement on all his pitches compared to the first outing, but the command just wasn’t the same. We will probably see games like this from time to time with Harrell, and the fact that he has had command problems all throughout his career is none to reassuring. Still, his first outing gave hope, and he will get plenty more opportunities this season.
It was more of the same for Wandy in his second outing where he went 5 innings giving up 4 runs, 3 of which were earned. A high percent of Wandy’s pitches were thrown for strikes in this outing. 80% of his changeups, 78% of his curveballs, 50% of his four-seam fastball, and 48% of his two-seam fastball were all thrown for strikes. On average he sat in the 88-89 MPH range with his fastball, which is similar to where he’s been throughout his career. The 4th inning proved to be Wandy’s downfall in this one, but the inning was also aided from a few defensive miscues. Hopefully the defense will show up in Wandy’s next start.
The bullpen logged a total of 20 innings on the week and allowed 7 earned runs. Fernando Rodriguez enjoyed a good week and is still finding plenty of success with his curveball/fastball combo. Rule 5 pick Rhiner Cruz had two 2-inning stints this week in which he struck out 4, walked none, and didn’t allow a run. Heading into the season control had been the knock on him but thus far he has looked very impressive in the early going. Wilton Lopez and David Carpenter both had their ups and downs this week, the ups being a 2-inning scoreless stint in relief of Lucas Harrell, and the downs being in Sunday's affair where they both contributed to blowing Happ's strong start. Both Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter earned losses on the week. The last performance to highlight would be that of our closer Brett Myers who picked up his 2nd save on the season and this time around enjoyed a 1-2-3 inning. In this outing he relied on his curveball heavily, and was able to record 2 strikeouts in the outing as well.
Overall except for J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, Fernando Rodriguez, and Rhiner Cruz it was a pretty mediocre performance across the board for the pitching staff. The bullpen through quite a bit of innings this week and hopefully the rotation can pitch a little deeper into games next week.