|5:10 PM PT6:10 PM MT7:10 PM CT8:10 PM ET20:10 ET0:10 GMT8:10 5:10 PM MST7:10 PM EST7:40 PM VEN4:10 UAE (+1)7:10 PM CT, May 29, 2019
Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas Attendance: 33,243
Astros go for sweep of Cubs
The ninth inning on Tuesday appeared so routine, so breathlessly easy for Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna that it made his struggles over the holiday weekend more difficult to comprehend in retrospect.
Osuna needed just 12 pitches to dispatch of Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward and save the Astros' 9-6 interleague victory over the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park. One day earlier, Osuna surrendered a pair of home runs to the Cubs in the ninth inning and barely held on for a 6-5 victory, capping his third consecutive white-knuckle appearance.
Over his first 21 appearances this season, Osuna allowed one earned run on seven hits and two walks with 19 strikeouts, going 2-0 with a dozen saves. In the last three appearances prior to Tuesday, he was tagged for five earned runs on seven hits, including three homers, plus a walk. Of significance was the fact that Houston won all three games, with Osuna notching two saves.
With hitters ambushing his fastball lately, Osuna threw six sliders and four cutters Tuesday.
"I thought he did a good job of mixing his pitches a little better," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He didn't give them any cookies to hit down the middle. You could even see Almora smile after the first-pitch slider. He executed pitches.
"Sometimes we have to remind ourselves and remind others that the closer's job is really hard and we panic as an industry whenever they give up a couple runs. In reality, he's done this virtually every other time ... where it was smooth, it was a couple early outs, he used his pitches and we shake hands after the game. Just because he had a couple games where he gave up runs doesn't give anybody pause in (the clubhouse) that he's the right guy at the right time."
Houston will pursue a series sweep behind left-hander Wade Miley (5-2, 3.32 ERA). Miley recorded a season-high eight strikeouts in his previous start, allowing one run on four hits and two walks in a 4-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on May 24. He is riding a four-game win streak and is unbeaten (3-0) at home this season. Miley is 6-2 with a 4.08 ERA over nine career starts against the Cubs, including a 2-0 mark and 2.45 ERA in 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.34 ERA) will start the series finale for the Cubs. He took a no-decision in his previous start after allowing three runs on six hits with nine strikeouts over six innings in a 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on May 24. Hendricks will make his first career start against the Astros. He is 3-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 18 career starts against the American League.
Heyward (2-for-5 with a home run, his eighth) returned to the lineup after missing one game following his outfield collision with Kris Bryant on Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds. The club remains hopeful that Bryant won't be too far behind after initial concerns that he suffered the brunt of the mishap. Bryant is batting .283 with 12 home runs and 34 RBIs over 50 games.
"We'll know more (Wednesday), hopefully earlier in the day," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We will see how the doctors rule, and then if they rule in his favor he'll be able to play."
--Field Level Media
Updated May 29, 2019