Astros turn to bullpen in quest for series win after comeback vs. Mets

In the first two games of their weekend series against the New York Mets, the visiting Houston Astros have had to use five pitchers in each game and ask the bullpen to cover a combined 6 2/3 innings.

It seems less than optimal for Sunday’s rubber match in the three-game series, then, that Houston will have to use an opener in reliever Shawn Dubin and lean on the bullpen to get every out.

But first-year manager Joe Espada said he isn’t worried.

“I expect us to be able to go out there tomorrow and win,” he said. “We’ll have the resources to cover it.”

Espada has reason to feel confident. The Astros have won eight of their past nine games, including Saturday’s come-from-behind 9-6 victory that saw them erase a 6-1 fourth-inning deficit.

Houston covered for a shaky Framber Valdez start by getting 4 1/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen, then using the wildness of New York’s relievers to fuel the go-ahead rally in the eighth inning. Four walks and a run-scoring wild pitch preceded Alex Bregman’s two-run single that gave the Astros a 7-6 lead.

Espada gave Valdez credit for throwing 4 2/3 innings despite allowing 10 hits and six runs.

“Valdez kept us in the game and kept us from using some of the guys we wanted to use (Sunday),” Espada said. “It didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but our guys persevered and the bullpen did a great job.”

Dubin (1-1, 5.64 ERA) has worked 22 1/3 innings in 14 outings, striking out 25. The right-hander’s most recent appearance was Wednesday in a 7-1 win over the Colorado Rockies, when he pitched the eighth inning and allowed one run on one hit with a walk and two strikeouts. He permitted five runs on seven hits and a walk in three innings during his only career outing against the Mets, which came last June.

While Houston tries to piece together 27 outs from a variety of pitchers, the Mets will ask right-hander Luis Severino (5-2, 3.29 ERA) to shoulder the load and get them back on track after their four-game winning streak ended Saturday.

Severino most recently pitched last Sunday, handcuffing the Chicago Cubs in a 5-2 road victory. He worked six shutout innings, yielding only three hits and striking out 10 with no walks in what was in contention for his best outing of the year.

However, Severino has struggled for most of his career against the Astros, going 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine previous appearances (eight starts) as a member of the New York Yankees. Homers have been an issue; he’s given up seven in only 45 2/3 innings.

Saturday’s result was a downer for the Mets, who had won 12 of 15 to climb over the .500 mark. The short-handed bullpen, which is in the middle of a 10-game stretch without suspended closer Edwin Diaz (using foreign substances), gave up five runs in the final two innings to fritter away a win.

But the team continues to score runs at an abundant clip and even is getting help from former batting champion Jeff McNeil. While he had Saturday’s game off, McNeil raised his average to .221 on Friday with three hits, including a three-run homer.

“I’m feeling like myself again, and hopefully, I can get that confidence back,” he said.

–Field Level Media