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Saturday had the potential to be very bad for the Houston Astros. Starter Jake Odorizzi exited the game after five pitches with forearm tightness, so the club was looking at a long and potentially taxing afternoon for the bullpen. The offense provided plenty of breathing room with a 16-run outburst, however, and rookie Kent Emanuel saved the day on the mound.

Emanuel, 28, replaced Odorizzi and damn near tossed a complete game in relief, throwing 8 2/3 innings on 90 pitches. It is the longest relief appearance in Astros history. Emanuel held the Angels to two solo home runs (Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani) and five hits in those 8 2/3 innings (HOU 16, LAA 2). How's that for an MLB debut?

Emanuel is the first pitcher to throw at least eight innings in relief since Wade LeBlanc, then with the Mariners, June 2019. He's the first pitcher to throw 8 2/3 innings in his MLB debut since Jesse Litsch in 2007, and the first pitcher to throw eight innings in relief in his MLB debut since Roger Mason in 1984. 

Overall, Emanuel is the first pitcher to throw 8 2/3 innings in relief in more than three decades. Here are the last five pitchers to accomplish the feat:

  • Kent Emanuel, Astros (April 24, 2021): 8 2/3 innings vs. Angels
  • Neil Allen, Yankees (May 31, 1988): 9 innings vs. Athletics
  • Bob Stanley, Red Sox (May 22, 1983): 10 innings vs. Twins
  • Dave Tobik, Tigers (June 9, 1982): 8 2/3 innings vs. Cleveland
  • LaMarr Hoyt, White Sox (Sept. 27, 1981): 9 innings vs. Athletics

Emanuel threw 90 pitches Saturday and Allen threw 111 pitches in his nine-inning relief appearance in 1988. Reliable pitch count data only goes back to 1988, so we don't know how many pitches the other folks threw in their extended relief appearances. 

Kent Emanuel
HOU • RP • 0
April 24 vs. Angels
IP8 2/3
IP5
R2
ER2
BB0
K5
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The Astros summoned Emanuel from the alternate site to bolster the bullpen Friday. He finished serving an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension two days ago, and since the positive test in Aug. 2020, Emanuel has maintained his innocence. In fact, he wears No. 0 to "represent the number of games I deserved to be suspended."

Here's what Emanuel told reporters, including Matt Young of the Houston Chronicle, earlier this week:

"I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and put No. 0 (on my jersey) to represent the number of games I deserved to be suspended," Emanuel said before the Astros game against the Angels on Friday. "I plan on wearing this number until some changes are made to fix the problem. There's innocent players getting in trouble for stuff they really can't control."

A performance like Saturday's should earn Emanuel a longer look, though in this day and age, there's a pretty good chance he'll be sent down Sunday in favor of a fresh reliever. Those 8 2/3 innings and 90 pitches will take Emanuel out of action for at least three days, and more likely four. Teams will typically call up a rested bullpen arm in these situations.

The Astros drafted Emanuel in the third round way back in 2013. It has been a number of years since he ranked among their top prospects, though he's done enough to remain in their system and get a spot on the 40-man roster. In the offseason, Emanuel allowed two runs and struck out 16 in 12 1/3 innings in the Dominican Winter League.