Harris cool under pressure, passes tough test

Astros closer escapes bases-loaded jam to seal 4-2 win

Harris cool under pressure, passes tough test

ANAHEIM -- Even for someone who hasn't had the closer role for long, Astros right-hander Will Harris continues to be calm under pressure.

Harris couldn't have been in a bigger jam in the ninth inning Monday, allowing the first three batters to reach as the Angels loaded the bases with no outs while down a pair of runs. The steady Harris responded by getting a strikeout of Jett Bandy and getting Andrelton Simmons to hit into a 1-2-3 double play to seal the Astros' 4-2 win.

"That was the biggest test to date for him, where he had to bail out a little bit of his teammates, a little bit of himself," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was a really good night to end on a win based on how the game went. They were in control early, we got to their 'pen late, and then Will cements it with an unusual double play."

Harris has converted all seven save opportunities since taking over as the closer earlier this month, and he lowered his season ERA to 0.80 by not allowing a run.

"Give Harris some credit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He made some pitches to get out of that jam. Our guys were battling, we were playing hard. We just didn't win enough situations in the game to keep it on our terms. We did a lot of good things tonight, and the Astros just did a couple things better."

Johnny Giavotella reached to start the ninth on a strikeout-wild pitch. Jefry Marte then shot a single to right field, and Daniel Nava followed with a single to left to load the bases with no outs.

"Just trying to get a ground ball," Harris said. "I felt good, you know. I hadn't thrown in a while so I felt pretty fresh, my arm felt pretty good, my curveball pretty sharp. I made good pitches to Giavotella and [Marte] shot me in the four-hole with the shift. I still thought I was doing alright. I made a bad pitch to Nava, but I was pretty confident I would be able to keep the ball on the infield for the next couple of hitters and maybe get a double play."

Harris fielded Simmons' chopper above his head and calmly threw a strike to Castro at the plate. The catcher relayed to first to lock up the Astros' seventh win in their past eight games.

"He didn't hit it soft, but he didn't crush it," Harris said. "I knew we had plenty of time. Right before the at-bat I was just like, 'Jason, me and you, ground ball back to me.' I felt like I had good movement on the fastball tonight and was cutting pretty good, kind of a humid night. I had confidence that could be able to get a ground ball there and worked there well."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.