It’s just one start, but for one game Lucas Harrell looked like the same pitcher Astros fans remember from last year. A seven-inning, one-run performance by the right-hander on 105 pitches in Wednesday's 10-3 win over Seattle was by far the most efficient outing of the season.
It didn’t look like that was the going to be the case early. As has been the trend so far this year for the Astros’ starters, Harrell struggled out of the gates despite not giving up runs. His pitch count was over 40 after two innings and the frustration was mounting for the sinkerball pitcher.
“I told (Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail) I got to get my rhythm going back,” Harrell said. “I wasn’t in rhythm my last few starts and just kind of caused me to pull the ball and so I tried to speed it up just a little bit through my windup but still get gathered before I go home and I felt that was one of my big keys today that helped me get ahead and throw a lot of strikes.”
It was those strikes, particularly strike one, that helped get Harrell back on track and deeper into the game.
“His ball, it moves a lot,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “And I think he found the right slot and he got into that groove.”
By the end of his outing, Harrell’s longest by a full inning, he had thrown strike one to 18 of the 26 batters he faced, allowing him to pitch his last five innings with just 15 pitches more than it took to get through the first two.
The efficiency had a side benefit, an alert defense that knew Harrell was forcing hitters to swing the bats.
“The defense played great behind me. (Ronny) Cedeno made a couple of nice plays at short, (Jose Altuve) and Cedeno pulled a nice double play,” Harrell said. “(Altuve) made a nice play on a ground ball so I couldn’t be any happier with the play overall.”