HOUSTON -- The way the Astros' bullpen has been throwing lately, you knew Houston was well equipped to pitch deep into Tuesday's game against the Orioles. The Astros rode 7 1/3 scoreless innings -- and a franchise-tying 16 strikeouts -- from their relief corps to beat the Orioles, 3-2, in 13 innings at Minute Maid Park.
Six relievers combined to hold the Orioles to five hits and no runs, while becoming the first set of relief pitchers to strike out 16 in a game for Houston since the franchise's first month of existence -- April 25, 1962, against the Cardinals. It was the most scoreless innings by an Astros bullpen since the six-pitch no-hitter at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2003.
"The bullpen was incredible," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "To get 15, 16 strikeouts from out of the 'pen, each guy came in and did a job. We had a little bit of trouble there and guys pitched out of it. To a man, those guys came in and closed out innings with zeros when we really, really needed it. There was no room for error. Not that we couldn't come back on them had they scored, but they have a difficult bullpen. Their closer was up three or four innings in a row where they had something going."
Lefty Tony Sipp retired all four batters he faced in relief of starter Doug Fister, and Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson and Will Harris each threw a scoreless frame. Gregerson worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth. Scott Feldman threw two scoreless innings, and Michael Feliz struck out all three batters he faced in the 13th for the win.
Astros relievers have combined for a 0.95 ERA in the team's last six games, with 31 strikeouts in 19 innings against only three walks.
"We've been throwing well," said Harris, who has 19 consecutive scoreless appearances. "For a few weeks now everybody's kind of been locked in and kind of has their roles, kind of knows when A.J. is going to call on us and that sort of thing. Today was no different."
Still, the Astros could have kept going. Feliz could have pitched a couple of more innings, and Chris Devenski and Pat Neshek were still available.
"The good news is it came out of an off-day and our bullpen was fully rested and set up to pitch as long as they possibly could," Hinch said. "I never like it dwindling down to the point of having one or two guys left, but we felt pretty good. And I know [the Orioles] felt pretty good about themselves, too, after an off-day for them. Both teams had enough pitching to carry on a little bit further, but it was a matter of who was going to give up a run."