In the span of three hours and 20 minutes on Saturday, the Houston Astros experienced both a concerning development and a major league debut that might provide something beneficial in the long term.
The Astros lost Jake Odorizzi, whose 2020 season was marred by injury, after just five pitches Saturday due to right forearm tightness. Houston turned to left-hander Kent Emanuel in his stead, and Emanuel delivered 8 2/3 relief innings in a 16-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, its third victory in a four-game series that concludes Sunday in Houston.
Emanuel, a third-round pick by the Astros in 2013, had languished in the minors, first overcoming Tommy John surgery in 2015 and later a PED suspension for which he maintains his innocence. He was on the brink of breaking camp with the club after spring training, yet arrived in Houston just in time, tossing 90 pitches while allowing two runs on five hits without issuing a walk.
He is the first pitcher since 1974 (John Montefusco) to pitch at least eight innings in relief and get the win in his MLB debut.
If the Astros are without Odorizzi for a prolonged spell, they might have found his replacement.
“I had just sat down and opened my coffee and they said you better warm up,” Emanuel, 28, said. “It’s pretty wild. But I’ve been expecting this moment for quite some time now. So, I was ready.
“I’ve been in pro ball for a really long time and it’s given me time to get over those moments and know what I have to do to be successful.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers (1-1, 5.27 ERA) will start Sunday as the Astros pursue the series sweep. It will mark his first start since he allowed six runs on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers while battling an illness on April 14. McCullers had allowed a total of two earned runs with 13 strikeouts over his previous two starts.
McCullers is 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA over 13 career starts against the Angels, posting 66 strikeouts over 70 innings. He failed to record an out in his most recent appearance against the Angels, allowing three runs on two hits and three walks in the Astros’ 6-5 road loss on Sept. 4, 2020.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy (0-2, 4.50) gets the start for the Angels in the series finale. He allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts over five innings in his previous appearance, a 6-4 loss to the Texas Rangers on April 19.
In eight career starts against Houston, Bundy is 0-3 with a 4.25 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He did not factor into the decision in his previous start this season against Houston after allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with a season-high 10 strikeouts in six innings in the Angels’ 4-2 loss on April 6.
For the second time in the series on Saturday, an Angels starter failed to complete three innings of work. After right-hander Alex Cobb recorded just eight outs in the series opener on Thursday, right-hander Griffin Canning allowed six runs on six hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings Saturday.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney turned in an exceptional performance in his start Friday, but the bullpen had to cover 3 1/3 innings when that game extended into extra innings. The combined labor heaped upon the relievers is cause for concern as the Angels ready for the series finale, with the handiwork of right-hander Ben Rowen (2 1/3 innings, one run on four hits) providing at least a glimmer of hope for Sunday.
“Rowan really has saved us,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “What he did (Saturday) puts us in position to win the game (Sunday).”
–Field Level Media