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Astros' busy bullpen boasting strong results

Special to MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch has asked a lot out of his bullpen this season. Heading into Sunday's 6-4 win over the Rays, Houston relievers have thrown 63 2/3 innings in 2017, second-most in the American League behind the Angels.

"Everyone is doing their part and doing what they need to do," reliever Ken Giles said. "We put a lot of focus on backing each other up."

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch has asked a lot out of his bullpen this season. Heading into Sunday's 6-4 win over the Rays, Houston relievers have thrown 63 2/3 innings in 2017, second-most in the American League behind the Angels.

"Everyone is doing their part and doing what they need to do," reliever Ken Giles said. "We put a lot of focus on backing each other up."

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Despite that heavy workload, the bullpen has held opposing hitters to a .182 average and boasts a 2.82 ERA as a unit, the fourth-lowest numbers in the Majors. They've been even better over the team's current hot streak. Over their last seven games, the Astros' bullpen has a combined 0.93 ERA, the lowest in the AL.

"When you roll off five or six names, it makes the opponent have to really work hard to get to the starter because they feel like our bullpen is as good as any in the league," Hinch said.

Relievers Luke Gregerson, Brad Peacock, Tony Sipp, James Hoyt and Giles have all been perfect over the last seven days, not allowing a hit or an earned run during that span.

"We've got a little bit of everything with this group," Giles said. "We've got multiple-inning guys, the get-out-of-jam guys. We've got guys for everything that we might need and other guys who are ready to step up to whatever role or situation we need them to. I think that is what makes us so strong."

The depth of Houston's bullpen has forced opposing hitters to be more aggressive than they usually would be when it comes to the starters, which helps them be more efficient with their pitch counts, according to Hinch.

"It puts a lot of pressure on the opponent to try and have to do some damage in the first five or six innings," Hinch said.

Springer out 

Astros center fielder George Springer was replaced in the lineup by Jake Marisnick for Sunday's game, likely ending Springer's Major League-high 205 consecutive-games streak. Springer is considered day to day with left hamstring discomfort and would be available Tuesday at the earliest.

"He's feeling better than he was last night, which is a good sign, to the point of lobbying to be available today," Hinch said. "We're optimistic that a couple days' rest will be good for him. I'd like to stay away from [using him on Sunday] because of the full off-day and he'd get a full 48 hours away from any sort of lingering soreness or stiffness."

Springer pulled up lame while running to first after grounding into a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth inning on Saturday.

Video: HOU@TB: Springer grounds into DP, suffers injury

Prior to the injury, Springer was batting .216 with seven home runs -- which was tied with Oakland's Khris Davis for most in the AL -- and 13 RBIs.

Hinch said that the game streak was likely in jeopardy as Springer was due for a day off and might have sat Sunday's game without the injury.

"Cal Ripken is safe," Hinch said. "If we are going to get to where we want to get, I'm going to ask these guys to play seven-plus months, including Spring Training, so I don't mind giving these guys [days off]. I've talked to all of them and they are going to have off-days. No one is going to play all 162 games. This just happens to be George's day for a couple of reasons."

Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Astros on Sunday.

Houston Astros