ANAHEIM -- Astros reliever Chris Devenski is pitching as "Devo the Dragon" this weekend for Players Weekend, MLB's newly created event. He picked up "Devo" -- an abbreviated version of his last name -- when he was young, but it wasn't until he was pitching for Double-A Corpus Christi manager
ANAHEIM -- Astros reliever Chris Devenski is pitching as "Devo the Dragon" this weekend for Players Weekend, MLB's newly created event. He picked up "Devo" -- an abbreviated version of his last name -- when he was young, but it wasn't until he was pitching for Double-A Corpus Christi manager Rodney Linares that he picked up the "Dragon" nickname.
"I guess it's just my fiery way I compete sometimes. I'm very intense and I've just got this so-called dragon," Devenski said with a smile.
In one of the most pivotal moments of the Astros' 2-1 win Friday night over the Angels and against one of baseball's most dangerous hitters, Devenski lived up to the label bestowed on him back in Double-A ball. With the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a one-run game, Devenski retired Angels star Michael Trout on a 3-2 changeup that Trout popped up to second base.
"Anybody that bought a ticket tonight bought it to see that type of matchup," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have one of our best relievers, an All-Star, against one of the best players in the game, bases loaded, 3-2 count, nowhere to put him. I'm glad Devo won it."
It was a moment of redemption of sorts for Devenski. The last time he faced Trout, on April 20 in Houston, the two-time American League MVP got the better of him, homering on an 0-2 changeup that hung in the middle of the plate.
And like that April matchup, Devenski entered Friday's tilt with the Astros nursing a narrow lead. The Angels threatened to flip the game. Los Angeles loaded the bases with two outs on a walk and a pair of singles, including an infield hit by Cameron Maybin that likely would have scored a run if not for an impressive defensive stop by shortstop Alex Bregman.
Trout then battled back from 0-2 to force a full count and bring the Angel Stadium crowd to its feet. But in what was as high-leverage a moment as it gets in the regular season, Devenski silenced the home fans and delivered against one of baseball's best.
"It was a good battle," said Devenski, who grew up in nearby Santa Ana and had a number of family members in attendance. "I came off the field super fired up. I thrive off that."
The 26-year-old hurler has been a stellar addition to the Astros' bullpen since reaching the Major Leagues in 2016 as an unheralded 25th-round Draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton. He posted a 2.16 ERA in 48 games as a rookie, then earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this season.
Devenski owns a 2.70 ERA through 51 appearances in 2017 and is a major contributor to a relief unit that entered Friday with an MLB-leading 1.84 ERA in August before adding three more scoreless frames.
"I've used him in about every high-pressure situation we could use him," Hinch said. "He's a difference-maker."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.