KANSAS CITY -- With veteran reliever Luke Gregerson and bullpen ace Chris Devenski deemed unavailable, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wasn't afraid to push rookie relievers Reymin Guduan and James Hoyt into the deep end of the pool in the sixth inning during Monday night's 7-3 win over the Royals.Guduan, the
KANSAS CITY -- With veteran reliever Luke Gregerson and bullpen ace Chris Devenski deemed unavailable, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wasn't afraid to push rookie relievers Reymin Guduan and James Hoyt into the deep end of the pool in the sixth inning during Monday night's 7-3 win over the Royals.
Guduan, the hard-throwing lefty, entered with a two-run lead and runners at first and third with none out. He retired both left-handed hitters he faced -- Mike Moustakas, who lined out to third, and Brandon Moss, who struck out. Hoyt struck out Alcides Escobar to finish the inning, and the Astros held on for their 11th consecutive win overall and a club-record 11th in a row on the road.
"They're stepping up," catcher Brian McCann said. "They can all pitch. We're asking them to pitch in situations that they're probably not used to, and for them to come through and do what they're doing is big for this team."
Astros relievers struck out seven in four innings of work, including swinging strikeouts to end the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Will Harris struck out Moss on a curveball to strand a runner at second base in the eighth, and Michael Feliz struck out Jorge Bonifacio to end the game and strand a runner at third.
Houston's bullpen leads the Majors with 248 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings.
"We needed to test them," Hinch said of his youngsters. "[Guduan] threw a lot of strikes early in his first outing. If you're going to be on this team, you're going to have to pitch. We've used this bullpen a ton. I shut down Devenski and Gregerson for the day and it was the perfect matchup for [Guduan] to come in and see what he's got.
"Obviously, he got a little fortunate with the positioning on the check swing line drive [off the bat of Moustakas] and really battled the Moss at-bat, and did exactly what we asked him to do."
Harris, a veteran who was an All-Star last year, had a sharp curveball, which is a major weapon against a Royals team that chases pitches.
"I felt pretty good with it," he said. "It's been good maybe the last four of five outings. I made a little tweak in my grip working with [bullpen coach Craig Bjornson] and the results have been good so far. The curveball is a pitch that can leave as quick as it comes. Just trying to work on it each and every day and use it as much as I can."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for M/LB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.