Astros hope to build on bullpen boost vs. Orioles

Field Level Media

June 08, 2019 at 7:32 am.

With their bullpen running on fumes in the aftermath of a seven-game road trip that featured two extra-inning victories and four wins by two runs or fewer, the Astros uncovered a pitching hero in the most unlikely of places Friday in the opener of their three-game series against Baltimore.

Left-hander Cionel Perez recorded his first career victory with three perfect innings of relief in the Astros’ 4-3 victory in 11 innings. Perez notched two strikeouts while recording 24 strikes among his 40 pitches mere hours after being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock earlier Friday.

Perez made eight appearances with Houston starting with his July 11, 2018, big-league debut, pitching to a 3.97 ERA with 12 strikeouts over 11 1/3 innings.

His performance in the minors this season was substandard, with Perez (0-1, 6.44 ERA) posting a 1.817 WHIP over 10 games and 36 1/3 innings. But with their relief corps stretched thin, the Astros turned over the latter stages of the series opener to Perez intent upon riding his plus fastball for as long as possible.

Perez enabled Houston to reset its bullpen in advance of Saturday’s game.

“It was his game. He was going to continue to pitch,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Perez. “He gets told last night, he comes up, he’s had a rough season in Triple-A. Strike-throwing has been an issue for him in Triple-A, and he throws a ton of strikes and is really conservative with his pitches for his pitch total. No hits, huge innings, just an incredible night for him.”

Left-hander Framber Valdez (2-2, 3.12 ERA) will make his first start of the season for the Astros in the middle game of the series. Valdez, who has 14 relief appearances, replaced rookie right-hander Corbin Martin in the rotation.

Valdez made five starts among his 22 appearances as a rookie last season, and he has a career record of 6-3 with a 2.57 ERA over 63 innings. As a starter last season, he was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA as a starter.

Valdez has faced the Orioles once previously, doing so in relief and allowing one run on one hit and three walks with one strikeout over 2 1/3 innings.

Veteran right-hander Andrew Cashner (6-2, 5.04 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Orioles. A native of nearby Conroe, Texas, Cashner is 3-7 with a 3.92 ERA over 16 appearances (eight starts) against the Astros, including a 1-5 mark and 3.89 ERA over six starts with Texas in 2017.

Despite pitching to a 7.88 ERA over his last three starts, Cashner is 2-0 during that stretch.

Baltimore’s hard-luck road trip continued in earnest when a replay review of the final play Friday proved inconclusive.

Astros third baseman Yuli Gurriel scored the winning run from first base on a Robinson Chirinos double to left field, making it safely when Orioles catcher Chance Sisco failed to secure the relay throw from shortstop Jonathan Villar. It was difficult to determine whether Gurriel touched home plate before Sisco retrieved the ball and made the tag.

“They told me that the replay official in New York said he touched the plate,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I don’t think we ever tagged him and I don’t think he ever touched the plate. So we’ve got to go with what the replay official says in New York, and you have to live with it.”