If the Astros do find a way to climb back into contention this season, fans may point to this past week as the turnaround point.
And, with a closer look, they may find that Houston's bullpen was one of the biggest sparks for the team's rally. The Astros won five of six to get back to seven games under .500 and 7 1/2 games back in the American League West. The back end of the Houston staff piled up the innings and the strikeouts en route to winning the Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford.
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the "Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford." An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
The Astros' bullpen far outpaced the rest of the Major League teams this past week, scoring 133 points while allowing just four earned runs and 20 hits in 28 1/3 innings. It also combined for 39 strikeouts with just 12 walks, and contributed to Houston's Major League-record 52 punchouts in a three-game sweep of the Orioles.
The relievers displayed an ability to withstand adversity and succeed despite unexpected circumstances. Here's a look at their biggest obstacle:
The unexpected:The Astros held a 4-3 lead in Anaheim on Sunday when Ken Giles entered to pitch the seventh inning. Giles gave up two Angels runs, on an RBI single by Albert Pujols and a squeeze bunt by Johnny Giavotella, and suffered his second blown save of the season.
How they prevailed: Houston promptly tied the game at 4 in the top of the eighth, and neither team would score again for the next five innings. After Giles exited, five Astros relievers combined to hold the Angels scoreless during that span until Carlos Correa's three-run home run in the 13th staked Houston to an 8-5 lead. Closer Luke Gregerson allowed Kole Calhoun to score on a wild pitch in the bottom of the frame, but shut down the Halos from there and picked up the save. When it was all over, the Astros had a hard-earned 8-6 victory.
The Astros finished a full 45 points ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the BRS standings. Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen is 15-for-17 in save opportunities this season, allowing just three runs in 21 appearances and limiting opposing hitters to a .149 batting average.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.