Astros look to overcome taxed bullpen vs. A’s

The Houston Astros carved out a 2-1 victory in 10 innings over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday on the backs of five relievers after starter Ronel Blanco was ejected.

The short-term implications of the heavy relief workload for the Astros are clear. Houston secured at least a split of this crucial four-game series with the Athletics, which is set to continue on Wednesday, but did so by digging deep into its bullpen for a second consecutive game.

Right-handers Tayler Scott, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly worked the first two games of the series. Closer Josh Hader logged two innings on Tuesday while earning the win. That sets the stage for the Astros to be shorthanded for at least the remainder of this series.

Of greater concern for the Astros was the ejection of Blanco, who entered his eighth start with a 4-0 record and a 2.23 ERA. Crew chief Laz Diaz ejected Blanco following a routine second check of his glove after first base umpire Erich Bacchus discovered a sticky material during the inspection.

“It was the stickiest stuff I’ve felt on a glove since we’ve been doing this for a few years now,” Bacchus said. “So, I brought the crew in. The crew conferred and then we went from there.”

Astros manager Joe Espada said Blanco had rosin on his non-pitching (left) hand and the inside of his glove. Diaz countered, “He (Blanco) said it was just rosin and we told him: ‘This is not rosin.'”

Blanco could face a 10-game suspension for the ejection, which would hinder an Astros rotation finally rounding back into health after having four different starters on the injured list last month.

“We’ll cross that line when we get there,” Espada said.

Left-hander Framber Valdez (2-1, 3.64 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Wednesday. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts over seven innings in the Astros’ 5-2 road victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Valdez has posted a 4.67 ERA with an opponent OPS of .796 in three starts since his return from the injured list.

Valdez is 5-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 13 career appearances (11 starts) against the Athletics with eight quality starts. Valdez went 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in three starts against Oakland last season. His three complete games against Oakland are his most against any opponent.

Right-hander Aaron Brooks is scheduled to be selected from Triple-A Las Vegas to make his season debut for the Athletics. It will mark his first big league appearance since April 28, 2022, when he worked 2 2/3 innings of relief for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Arizona Diamondbacks and his first start since Sept. 13, 2019. Brooks was 1-6 with a 4.57 ERA across eight starts with Las Vegas.

Brooks is 0-4 with a 7.96 ERA in five career starts against the Astros. In his most recent appearance against Houston, on Aug. 10, 2019, Brooks allowed nine runs on nine hits — including four home runs — with three strikeouts over three innings in a 23-2 loss pitching for the Orioles.

–Field Level Media