ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 21: Lucas Harrell #64 of the Houston Astros wipes his face after giving up a two run single to Skip Schumaker #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 21, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
I've come to really enjoy Lucas Harrell's starts. The guy has been one of the two maybe three bright spots for this Astros team this year. He's progressed throughout the year and has a chance to continue to improve and play a big role in a young Astros rotation for several years to come. Add to that the fact that his story is a good one with him being claimed off of waivers from the White Sox and finding success with the Astros. Even as recently as this spring training Harrell did not look to have a future in the Astros rotation, but Luhnow made the surprising move to release Livan Hernandez and gave Harrell an opportunity that he made the most of. To sum it up, it's hard not to root for Lucas Harrell if your an Astros fan.
With that being said Harrell did not have a good outing tonight against the Cardinals. The first inning was particularly rough as he gave up four runs in the first frame. Jon Jay got things started with a lead off double, and then moved to third on a groundout. Harrell then balked in Jay for the first run of the game. After that Harrell allowed five consecutive singles before getting a double play to get out of the inning. When the dust finally settled Harrell and the Astros were staring at a four run deficit and an uphill battle against Adam Wainwright. Harrell ran into more trouble in the third when he got that inning started with consecutive walks. Yadier Molina then singled in a run, and Rafael Furcal later hit a sac fly to score the second run of the inning. Harrell was then able to limit the damage and pu up two frames of scoreless baseball before his night ended.
All said it was a frustrating night for Harrell. You could point to the fact that Harrell was paired with Jason Castro rather than his normal catcher Chris Snyder whom Harrell has worked well with as a reason for his struggles tonight. You could also point to his ugly home/road splits and say that he was expected to struggle in a road game. Or you can blame It's Gonna Happen for going off topic in the minor league recap for really no reason at all and jinxing Harrell tonight. Whatever the reason, it was a forgettable start for Harrell, and hopefully he can bounce back next time.
As for the bullpen, Chuckie Fick allowed one run in the sixth in 0.2 innings and left with the bases loaded. Tony DeFrancesco then made an easy decision and called on control specialist Rhiner Cruz to close out the inning, and of course he did so with ease. Cruz actually had a good night and added a scoreless seventh to his high leverage out in the sixth. Xavier Cedeno pitched the eight and made it an adventure before ultimately getting out of the inning unscathed and leaving the bases loaded.
As for the offense they just couldn't get anything going against Adam Wainwright. The good news is that the Astros only stranded six baserunners tonight after stranding ten in Sunday's affair. The bad news however is that the Astros only had six baserunners tonight. Wainwright was masterful and threw a complete game shutout while only allowing five hits and one walk while striking out twelve Astros. Ben Francisco and Steve Pearce had the Astros only extra base hits, both doubles. The offense just struggled against a tough pitcher tonight.
Up next for the Astros is Kyle Lohse who is having a great year for the Cardinals in game two of this series. Bud Norris will take the hill for the good guys and hopefully the Cardinals killer still has the touch against the Redbirds.