Consistency key for hard-throwing Harris

Consistency key for hard-throwing Harris

ST. PETERSBURG -- Astros right-handed reliever Will Harris has no secrets to spill about his success this year. Consistency has been key for him, and even though his team-record 26-game scoreless streak ended in the ninth inning during a victory over the Rays on Saturday at Tropicana Field, Harris remains content about his progress.

"Just kind of a lot of the same stuff," Harris said Sunday. "Just trying to keep the ball down, trying to keep the ball on the ground, throw a lot of strikes -- that's kind of my game. Yeah, trying to stay ahead of them, get them swinging and kind of work off of that."

Harris has a sterling 0.63 ERA with a career-best three saves and 15 holds in 28 2/3 innings. Before allowing a sacrifice fly to center field by Steven Souza Jr. that scored Logan Morrison on Saturday, Harris hadn't surrendered a run since giving up one in his season debut against the Yankees on April 7.

Claimed off waivers from the D-backs in November 2014, Harris had a 1.90 ERA with two saves and 13 holds in 71 innings last season with the Astros. He said he was aware of his recent scoreless streak, but he tried to focus on his pitch discipline to limit walks. He has walked six batters this season, with two coming against the Rays on Saturday.

"You're just aware that you're pitching well, and [you're] just trying to keep the same game plan," Harris said. "I guess it's just not walking guys. I think that's the big key for me. If they're going to score runs, make them string together a few hits in a row. With our defense, that's a hard thing to do."

According to PITCHf/x data, Harris had thrown 267 cutters, 134 curveballs and 29 fastballs. He said his ability to use the curveball a bit more this season -- he threw 216 curveballs last year -- has contributed to his rise.

"His ability to pound the strike zone with two plus pitches is really his calling card," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He doesn't throw anything straight. He's got a hard-cutting fastball. His velocity is up a little bit. His curveball for ball, his curveball for strike, are both very effective against both sides of the hitter. His ability to handle left-handed hitters has always been something that has allowed him to have success in longer outings.

"But really, he's having a very similar season to what he did last year at the beginning of the year for the first half. A fresh Will Harris with his strike-throwing ability, with his two plus pitches, is a very effective one."

Harris remains motivated to continue his momentum.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself, for sure," he said. "I want to do well. I want to do well for the other guys that are in here. Giving up runs is one thing. Everybody is going to give up runs. I don't want to give up the runs that cause us to lose the game. So that's really the difference."

Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com, based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.