Bullpens could prove key to Astros-Giants series

Two teams concerned about the wear and tear on the bullpen hope to avoid another extra-inning affair when the Houston Astros get a rematch with the host San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.

Even after Houston starter Spencer Arrighetti and San Francisco starter Kyle Harrison pitched brilliantly into the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, on Monday night, the teams had some anxious moments at the tail end of the Giants’ 4-3, 10-inning win.

One of the Astros’ best late-inning arms, Ryan Pressly, was unavailable for the series opener in San Francisco after he pitched back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Angels.

After the right-hander had three consecutive days off, Astros manager Joe Espada sent out Pressly for the eighth inning in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday in a classic get-some-work situation with the Astros holding a commanding lead.

The 25-pitch outing seemed harmless when Pressly threw a scoreless inning, but then he was needed late in a tight game on Sunday. Pressly allowed two runs to squander a lead that time, providing a double-whammy when the Astros went on to lose the game and he became unavailable for Monday.

Espada had a need for Pressly on Monday in either the ninth inning of a tie game or the 10th in a save situation after the Astros had scored twice in the top of the inning. Instead, he exhausted Josh Hader, who took the loss on Sunday, in the ninth in an effort to get the game into extra innings, which he did, before having to turn to Rafael Montero, who was bombed for three quick runs in the 10th.

In the rematch on Tuesday, Hader might now be unavailable after having pitched Sunday and Monday. So the high-leverage late stuff on Tuesday figures to fall onto the lap of Pressly, who has allowed runs in three of his last six outings, taking two losses and blowing a save chance over that stretch.

“We’re going to continue to rely on (Pressly),” Espada said. “He’s a big part of our bullpen, and I believe in him. He has gotten big outs for us in the past, and he will (again).”

The task of taking the pressure off the Houston bullpen falls to starter Ronel Blanco (5-2, 2.78 ERA), who began the season going unbeaten with a 1.99 ERA in his first nine starts. The right-hander has since lost two in a row, however, allowing a total of eight runs in 10 1/3 innings to the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals.

The 30-year-old has pitched just once in his three-year career against the Giants, throwing one inning of shutout relief last May.

San Francisco’s Harrison got two more outs than Arrighetti on Monday, and Giants manager Bob Melvin thought that was the difference in the game after he, like Espada, exhausted his closer in the ninth and had limited options thereafter.

“It was an easy decision to send him back out there for the seventh,” Melvin said of Harrison, who had a shutout at the time. “(Yordan) Alvarez gets a double (actually a triple) and they end up getting a run right there, but as it turned out, we needed that (extra partial inning from Harrison).”

Giants right-hander Jordan Hicks (4-2, 2.82 ERA) should be well rested for his Tuesday start. He struggled with his control in his latest outing before getting pulled after just 3 2/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

Like Blanco, the 27-year-old Houston native has pitched just once — in relief — against the Astros, throwing a scoreless inning and earning a save for the Cardinals last June.

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