How do you change the culture on a 100-loss team in just one season? Try turning over the roster as much as possible.
How do you stop an eight-game losing streak from getting any worse? Same way, actually. That's what the Houston Astros did on Sunday, beating the Reds 5-3 at Minute Maid Park with a pitcher who was called up a day before and a hitter claimed off waivers during spring training.
Jordan Lyles, fresh off the plane from OKC, went 7 strong innings, allowing five hits, two runs, two walks while striking out three. He also put Houston in position to win early and often.
"I wanted to focus on carrying over what I had in the bullpen to the first inning," Lyles said. "The hardest part this year has been getting out of that first inning, not giving up early runs. I did a good job of throwing the ball over the plate. My misses over the plate weren't too bad, but they made me pay for one of them. My main focus was to get through that first inning, and then take it one at a time after that."
Lyles held the Reds to just two runs on a single home runs, as Zack Cosart left the yard in the third inning with a two-run home run to erase a 1-0 Houston lead. The Astros took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth with the bottom of the order coming up big.
But, it was Justin Maxwell's fourth homer of the year (and third pinch-hit homer this season) that gave them that extra cushion to survive Cincy scoring an extra run in the eighth off Wilton Lopez.
"The team has been battling," Maxwell said. "It's definitely good to get back on the winning side of things. Just like every other pinch hit at-bat, you have to be aggressive. You can't be too fine as a pinch hitter. You have to look for a pitch to hit and drive and I got one."
Oh, and just for good measure, Houston's shook up bullpen, where closer Brett Myers was moved from the rotation in the offseason, stood tall. Myers pitched a perfect ninth for his 13th save, striking out pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick to end the game.
Add in contributions from Marwin Gonzalez, Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson and even Jason Castro and this Astros team won with a bunch of guys who were not on the active roster at the end of last season. Some of them may have been, but were in different roles, as Lyles was even put into the bullpen for September.
See? It's not hard to change up the mojo of a team. You just have to shake things up.
P.S. - Houston won the All-Hair contest in the game, too, as Brett Wallace's locks were much more stylish than Bronson Arroyo's mullet-thing. Brick, by the way, said after the game that he's lost 30 pounds since last season. Everyone kept talking about how trimmed down he looked.