Left-handed reliever has 5.40 ERA through 23 1/3 innings this season
By Jordan Ray
HOUSTON -- Despite the recent struggles of left-handed reliever Tony Sipp, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday he'll stick with the veteran in certain matchups, though he doesn't have many other options at this point.
In Saturday's loss to Chicago, Sipp came in with the Astros trailing by one run in the top of the eighth. He then surrendered an RBI triple and an RBI double on consecutive at-bats, two hits that would prove costly as Houston fell to the White Sox, 7-6.
"That usually comes down to execution," Hinch said after Saturday's loss. " … We've got to get Tony going."
Sipp was one of the Astros' best relievers last season, allowing only 12 earned runs in 54 1/3 innings (1.99 ERA). He then signed a three-year, $18 million deal in the offseason, but he hasn't been nearly as productive in 2016.
The 32-year-old owns a 5.40 ERA and a .316 opponents' batting average this season, both of which are highest on the team.
Sipp hasn't been much better against left-handed batters, whom he usually goes against due to his role on the team. He has a 4.38 ERA and .306 opponents' batting average against lefties this season.
"It's frustrating for him," Hinch said Sunday. "We believe in him. I'll keep putting him back in there when I get the opportunity to and hope he turns it around."
With Sipp being the only left-handed reliever on the Astros' active roster, the club needs him to be able to get crucial outs against left-handed batters late in the game. If he can't do that, Houston doesn't have a lot of other options.
Kevin Chapman is the only other lefty reliever on the Astros' 40-man roster, but he's struggled as well, pitching to a 6.27 ERA in 33 innings at Triple-A Fresno this season.
"This is a tough bullpen to crack for a reason," Hinch said. "There's a lot of talent [in the current bullpen], so I'm not even thinking twice about the group we have."
Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.