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Qualls undeterred by rough patch

Astros reliever appreciates bullpen mates picking him up

ANAHEIM -- Astros reliever Chad Qualls feels as if he's been throwing the ball well, despite some recent rough patches, including Monday when he gave up a leadoff single in the ninth inning and wound up taking a loss. His velocity is up and he's still getting ground balls, which is encouraging.

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Qualls, the elder statesman in the Astros' solid bullpen, entered Tuesday with a 1-4 record and a 5.11 ERA, having allowed 14 earned runs and 23 hits in 24 2/3 innings. He hasn't pitched as well in the last month as he did to start the year, and he admits that.

"It's a matter of just getting out there and getting some successful innings under my belt and do what I've been doing my whole career," Qualls said. "It's just bad luck right now. It's baseball, it's a matter of time and I'll turn it around and start rolling again."

Qualls has allowed nine earned runs, three walks and 14 hits in 9 1/3 innings in his last 11 appearances (8.68 ERA). He began the season by giving up five earned runs, three walks and nine hits in his first 15 1/3 innings (2.93 ERA). Still, his 66.7 groundball percentage is the best of his career.

"That's my game," he said, "but I think right now some of them are starting to find holes than at the beginning of the year when they were going at guys. Unfortunately, I think some of those runners are scoring, which is just killing me."

The Astros' bullpen is deep enough that manager A.J. Hinch can afford to use Qualls in different situations until he starts getting outs more consistently. Will Harris, Pat Neshek and Josh Fields can throw the seventh or eighth to bridge to closer Luke Gregerson.

"They're picking me up," Qualls said. "When Will or Fields are throwing the seventh and Neshek throwing the eighth, they let me get my stuff straightened out, and that's what a deep bullpen is for. It's kind of weird that all seven or eight guys would be firing on all cylinders, so if one of us had a hiccup, we have other guys to pick us up. That's a true testament to a good bullpen and a good team."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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