Houston Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. got off to the type of start that seemed to trend toward the bullpen having an easy game Saturday against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
But after needing just nine pitches to complete the top of the first inning and 10 to strike out the side inthe third, McCullers labored through a three-run fourth and departed with 111 pitches on his ledger over six innings. And with the Astros (87-61) contesting their second consecutive extra-inning affair, Houston needed five relievers to complete its 6-4 loss to Arizona (48-100).
Yimi Garcia allowed three runs in the 10th to take the loss in what was the seventh consecutive game Houston has used at least three relievers. The Astros haven't received at least seven innings from a starting pitcher since Framber Valdez did so against Texas on Aug. 28.
"They've been working a lot," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of his bullpen. "I didn't have (Kendall) Graveman, I didn't have (Blake) Taylor and I didn't have (Cristian) Javier (available), so our bullpen was big-time short. We pitched the guys that were available that we thought were going to do the job. It happens sometimes where things go the other way for the other team."
Right-hander Zack Greinke (11-6, 3.94 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Sunday.
Greinke struggled in his return from the COVID-19-related injury list against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over five innings in the Astros' 8-1 loss. Greinke surrendered three home runs and has allowed a career-high-tying 28 homers this season. He is 0-3 over his last four starts with a 6.86 ERA.
Greinke is 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA over 15 career starts against the Diamondbacks. He posted a 55-29 record with a 3.40 ERA over 114 starts with Arizona between 2016 and his trade to Houston in 2019.
Right-hander Zac Gallen (2-10, 4.44) will start today for the Diamondbacks.
Gallen took the loss in his last start on Monday, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 5-1 setback to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gallen is 0-3 in his last three starts with a 5.00 ERA. However, he is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last three road starts.
He is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. He earned the road victory after allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts over six innings in the Diamondbacks' 6-3 win on Sept. 18, 2020.
One night after surrendering two runs in the 10th inning to take the loss, Diamondbacks veteran reliever Tyler Clippard notched his sixth save by working around a run-scoring single from Jason Castro in the 10th. Clippard retired Yuli Gurriel with the game-tying run in scoring position to seal the win.
"He's so battle-tested and he's going to go out there and get the job done," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said of Clippard. "For him to go back out there and make pitches when he had to and earn the save, that's what it's all about."
--Field Level Media