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Houston has problems, but bullpen might not be one

The Sports Xchange
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The Astros still have the worst record in the major leagues and the worst bullpen ERA in the National League, so the world order remains largely intact.

However, Houston has hope that the disorder of the bullpen is a thing of the past.

The Astros begin a 10-game trip Friday with their first winning streak in more than a month.

It's only a two-game winning streak, but even that modest accomplishment wouldn't be possible without some stingy work from the bullpen.

In 7-6 and 3-2 victories over the Washington Nationals, Astros relievers allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings. The latter victory was an 11-inning affair, with the bullpen allowing one hit in four scoreless innings.

"The bullpen, with our struggles and stuff early, this is great," said right-handed closer Mark Melancon, who sailed through a scoreless ninth inning in only nine pitches on Wednesday.

"I feel like the last couple weeks, we've really hung together. If somebody got in trouble, the next guy picked him up. It's really been nice."

In the past 13 games, the Astros' bullpen has allowed four earned runs in 36 1/3 innings for a 0.99 ERA. That has dropped the bullpen ERA from 4.92 to 4.42.

"That's big," right-handed starter Brett Myers said. "That's what we were missing earlier in the season. I know they've been on track for the last couple weeks. If they can keep that up and starters can pitch deep into games, it gives us a chance to win."

Melancon has allowed one earned run in his past 7 2/3 innings to bring his ERA down to 2.91.

Right-hander Wilton Lopez has allowed one run in his past 8 1/3 innings and has a 2.78 ERA. Right-hander Enerio Del Rosario has turned in eight consecutive scoreless outings covering eight innings, albeit with 13 base runners allowed (seven walks). Left-hander Sergio Escalona hasn't allowed an earned run in his past seven outings (5 1/3 innings) to bring his ERA to 2.45.

Right-hander Fernando Rodriguez has pitched five consecutive scoreless outings and has a 2.49 season ERA to go with 27 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.

"What helps is we kind of know our roles," Melancon said. "At the beginning of the year, nobody knew what their role was, it seemed like. At the beginning of the year nobody does, but it seemed like it took a little longer for us to figure out our roles because we were up and down, up and down."

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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