CHICAGO -- The dominance of the Astros' starting rotation in the first three weeks of the season has had a ripple effect on the bullpen. Houston relievers had thrown the fourth fewest innings (62) in the Major Leagues entering Sunday, which could pay huge dividends going forward if the starters continue work deep into games.
Through 22 games, Astros starters had a 2.12 ERA in 135 2/3 innings, both tops in the Major Leagues. The Astros' bullpen ranked third in the Majors with a 2.61 ERA.
"Any days you can take away from the bullpen will help them over the long stretch," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "There was a stretch here I've used [Chris] Devenski every other day or [Will] Harris every other day or guys two out of three days and that accumulation will catch up over time.
"It's nice when the starters absorb a lot of those innings or maybe there's an inning or two in there we have to force the pitchers into pitching because they haven't pitched in a few days. I'd rather err on the side of too little usage than too much usage."
Last year, Houston relievers posted a 4.09 ERA in 88 games in the first half of the season and a 4.49 ERA in 73 games in the second half. Hinch patched his bullpen together in the postseason using starters in several key spots, including Charlie Morton in Game 7 of the World Series.
Astros blazing a trail on Earth Day
The Astros joined the rest of baseball in celebrating Earth Day on Sunday, and the club boasts a variety of green initiatives, including LED lighting at Minute Maid Park.
Major League Baseball was the first professional sports league to have all of its teams as members of the Green Sports Alliance, which promotes healthy, sustainable communities in sports. In fact, MLB clubs diverted more than 20,000 tons of recycled or composted waste during the 2017 season.
The Astros have retrofitted light fixtures in their front-office spaces and converted center-field lighting to LED. They also provide single-stream recycling opportunities for fans and engage in cardboard, pallet and electronic recycling -- maintaining a 5-percent increase in their diversion rate each year.
What's more, the Astros and Nationals are currently pursuing LEED Silver certification at their Spring Training facility, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications are given to buildings that meet strict guidelines for environmental responsibility by using less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.