Say it with me: BEE-lack. Brandon Bielak. BEE-lack. We should probably remember the pronunciation going forward.
Following an erratic start from Josh James, which was his first true start since September 25, 2018, the Astros found themselves in an early 3-0 hole by the middle of the third inning. James was a bit all over the place despite striking out five, allowing five walks as he battled subpar control throughout his entire outing.
As usually was the case with James last season in relief full-time, when he posted a 13.2 percent walk rate in 61 1⁄3 innings, his velocity wasn’t the issue. With a fastball that topped out a 98.3 MPH, the right-hander continues to show why he is full of potential. But the key to James as contributor to this staff has hinged on his ability to better control where his pitches go. That wasn’t the case against the Mariners. The Astros will likely continue to give James more chances as a starter, but he will need to show more than the periodic flashes than he did on Monday in the long-term.
At the plate, the Astros lineup initially had fits with Kendall Graveman, who made his first start since Tommy John surgery in 2018 when he was with the A’s. In the first inning, for example, Graveman flashed some serious heat as he struck out the side of George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman on 17 pitches. But Houston would began to make some headway in the second frame as Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa reached with only one out, but a double play ball from Josh Reddick ended that threat.
But in the very next inning, the tide of the game was turned, thanks to a RBI double by Jose Altuve followed by a three-run dinger by Alex Bregman (100th career home run!). A 3-0 deficit quickly turned into a 4-3 advantage in the span of minutes. The catch? The Astros needed their rather makeshift bullpen to not blow another game as they did on Sunday afternoon.
Enter Bielak, who threw 3 1⁄3 innings of one-run ball in his Major League debut on Monday night. The 24-year old right-hander’s contract was selected by the Astros following the club placing Justin Verlander on the IL with a right forearm strain, which was the key to helping the Astros preserve a slim lead as the offense continued add on in the later innings. When it was all said and done, Roberto Osuna would earn his first save of the season as the Astros would take an opening series victory with a score of 8-5.
The Astros next play host to the Dodgers starting Tuesday for a quick two-game series. This is what happened the last time they were in Houston a few years ago.
But who knows if we’ll still have a season by that point following Monday’s events with the Marlins, right?