Harris comes out on top in battle vs. Blue Jays' best

Reliever enters with two runners on, no outs and retires heart of the order

Harris comes out on top in battle vs. Blue Jays' best

HOUSTON -- The assignment Astros reliever Will Harris had Friday night was about as challenging as they come. Manager A.J. Hinch gave him the ball with runners at first and second and no outs in the seventh and asked him to retire Toronto's Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- each of whom represented the potential tying run.

Harris, the unflappable right-hander, struck out Donaldson swinging, got Bautista to pop out to shortstop and struck out Encarnacion swinging to help the Astros polish off an 8-4 win over the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park.

"That was an exceptional inning out of Will," Hinch said. "Coming into the fire with guys on base, there was probably not a tougher 2-3-4 in the league. That's a lot of damage that can be done when you walk into Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion. A big step forward for Will."

Harris has been a great pickup to the bullpen, and hasn't been scored upon in 13 of his 14 outings this season, with 24 strikeouts in 18 innings. Getting a chance to pitch in a key situation with runners on base wasn't something Harris had done much this year, but Hinch was trying not to use Pat Neshek and Chad Qualls, though Qualls did work an inning.

"They've got a lot of right-handed hitters in their lineup, so the game plan was to keep the ball down and try to get a ground ball when you come in with runners on base," Harris said. "I was able to get ahead in the counts and throw a couple of breaking balls. Just stick to my game plan going in."

The bullpen has inherited 40 runners this year, and only 13 have scored. Harris had only inherited one runner this season prior to Friday.

"As relievers, you come in with men on base, we take pride leaving the guys on base, whether it's the third inning, [or the] ninth inning," Harris said. "Inherited runners are something we hold pretty dear."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.