Go ahead, offer Lucas Harrell a challenge.
One week into Spring Training, Harrell felt like he’d pitched himself “out of contention” for the fifth spot in the Astros rotation. At least that’s what he told my partner, Brett Dolan, in a post-game interview.
A few weeks later, the rookie worked himself back into the rotation. By Opening Day weekend, he was the Astros second starter.
Four weeks ago, on a cool Friday evening in Los Angeles, the right-hander navigated 7.1 dazzling innings against the Dodgers. Harrell stifled the best team in the National League that night while never inducing a swing-and-a-miss.
That impressive performance was recently outdone by another Astros rookie. Lefty Dallas Keuchel authored the club’s first (and only) complete Saturday afternoon; an 8-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. Consider it a worthy challenge.
This morning, I can’t help but wonder what Harrell might do next.
Not that it came easily for him. Harrell dodged a bullet when left fielder JD Martinez gunned down the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning. The righty was wobbling. A walk loaded the bases — no room for error now — forcing Harrell to dig a little deeper. With two outs, Nick Hundley worked the count to 2-2 as fans came to their feet. Harrell reached back and blew a 94 MPH fastball past a flailing Hundley to end the game.
Game over. But what will Harrell do next?
Harrell’s shutout stands as the best performance by an Astros starter this year. It was the first time in seven years of pro ball that Harrell had even pitched a complete game.
But then, maybe Harrell was just trying to keep up with his teammates. Astros starters have been on a roll lately.
ASTROS LAST 10 STARTS (since Keuchel joined rotation)
- 6/17 – 5+ IP, 1 R (Keuchel)
- 6/18 – 6.0 IP, 2 R (Happ)
- 6/19 – 7.0 IP, 2 R (Rodriguez)
- 6/20 – 7.0 IP, 2 R (Lyles)
- 6/22 – 7.0 IP, 1 R (Harrell)
- 6/23 – 9.0 IP, 1 R (Keuchel)
- 6/24 – 7.0 IP, 1 R (Happ)
- 6/25 – 6.2 IP, 5 R (Rodriguez)
- 6/26 – 6.1 IP, 1 R (Lyles)
- 6/27 – 9.0 IP, 0 R (Harrell)
That’s a paltry 16 runs over 70.0 innings for a 2.06 ERA. The Astros are 5-5 during the stretch.
Pitching hasn’t been the only bright spot lately. The Astros lone run last night came on a Matt Downs home run in the third inning. It was good thing, too. The Padres retired the final 18 Astros hitters to finish the game.
The Astros have knocked out 11 homers in their last five games. They have 26 home runs in their last 18 games.
I’ve never been to a baseball fantasy camp, but I’m told they are awesome. Luckily for you, the Joe Niekro Foundation is putting together a doozy of a camp in late September.
Campers spend five days playing ball with Hall of Famers like George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Gaylord Perry. Sounds phenomenal to me.
The camp is designed to help raise money for the Joe Niekro Foundation which is “Knuckling Up for Aneurysm Research.” Good fun, great cause. Check it out.
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