This Week In Astros Pitching

Apr 6, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (51) throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the fifth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
The season opening series against the Rockies is now in the books, and the Astros pitching staff got the season started off on the right foot with some very strong pitching performances. The starting group of Wandy Rodriguez, Lucas Harrell, and Bud Norris combined to throw 20.1 innings while striking out 14, walking 5, and allowing just 2 earned runs. The bullpen threw 6.2 innings while striking out 5, walking 2, and allowing 4 earned runs.

The Starters

Wandy Rodriguez kicked things off for the first time this season, and managed to keep the good guys in the game even though the defense didn't do him any favors in this one. It was clear from the early going that Wandy did not have his best stuff in this game. Wandy sat right at 90 MPH with his fastball on the night, and also mixed in his curve and changeup. He seemed to struggle with locating his curveball for most of the night, and possibly because of that threw more changeups than what we see in a normal Wandy start.

Lucas Harrell started game two and tried to do his best Tim Hudson impersonation by recording groundball outs like they were going out of style. 13 of his 21 outs were of the groundball variety, and 4 others were punchouts. Harrell sat around 92.6 MPH on the night with his fastball with excellent movement. He also did a good job of mixing in his other pitches as well. Location has been a problem for Harrell in the past with a BB/9 4.59 in the majors, and a 4.3 BB/9 rate in 7 seasons in the minors, therefore there is still reason for concern going forward. However, he was not plagued by a lack of command on Saturday as he appeared to be locked in and pitched a great game against a pretty solid Rockies offense.

Bud Norris looked as if he is ready to take another step forward this year and possibly claim the title of staff ace. He recorded 8 strikeouts in 7 innings while allowing 4 hits and 3 walks. The biggest mistake was a homerun to Willin Rosario. While Bud doesnt work off his 96 MPH fastball he featured when he was first called up anymore his 92 MPH 2-seam fastball seemed to be enough to give Rockies hitters fits. Overall it was a very strong outing for Norris which is encouraging considering the fact that he has struggled out of the gate the last two years.

Relief Pitching

The bullpen had its ups and downs this series which is to be expected. Brandon Lyon saw his first action in about a year, and while the results were mixed it is encouraging that he has came this far. There's still a chance that the Astros will receive some positive value out of him yet, or at least more of a chance than there was heading into this season.

Fernando Abad, Brandon Lyon, and Wesley Wright each struggled some over the weekend series. It would appear that both Fernando Abad and Wesley Wright may be competing with each other to stay with the club as the Astros have claimed Justin Maxwell off of waivers from the Yankees and plan to make a roster move on Wednesday.

Wilton Lopez, Fernando Rodriguez, Rhiner Cruz, and Brett Myers are your relief pitchers who managed to keep the Rockies off the board. Speaking of Brett Myers, he made a successful debut as the Astros closer. He was able to shut the door after giving up a lead-off double to open the frame and recorded his first save as an Astro. Hopefully Myers will see many more save opportunities this season.

Overall it was a very solid performance by the pitching core this weekend. If you look back at the opening series last season the Astros staff went from giving up 21 runs to 10 runs, so that's a plus. Hopefully J.A. Happ and Kyle Weiland can keep the outlook positive this week as well.

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