Astros' closer comes up big in eighth inning to preserve two-run lead
By Alyson Footer
SAN DIEGO -- For the better part of two seasons, Will Harris has largely been considered one of the Astros' best-kept secrets, having long since established himself as one of Houston's greatest bullpen weapons while mostly staying out of the national spotlight.
That anonymity has slowly eroded over time, thanks to an almost flawless record since joining the Astros in 2015. And on Tuesday night at Petco Park, that anonymity took another hit, after Harris displayed to a worldwide audience what fans in Houston have known for a while: It's really, really hard to get a hit off of him.
Harris, making his first All-Star appearance just shy of his 32nd birthday, got the call, and delivered, in the pivotal moment of the American League's 4-2 win over the National League in the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. If the Astros make it to the World Series this year, they can thank their under-the-radar bullpen weapon for playing a huge role in securing home-field advantage.
"You just want to do your job," Harris said. "And now the game counts for so much, with home-field advantage, that there's a little bit extra on the line, which makes it that much more fun."
Trying to preserve a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning, AL manager Ned Yost summoned Harris to take over for Yankees reliever Andrew Miller, who loaded the bases with two outs, to face Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz. It was a daunting situation for the right-handed Harris, but he delivered much like he has all season for Houston, striking out Diaz looking on a 93-mph cutter to escape the jam.
"I faced Diaz a couple weeks ago," Harris said. "In that situation, in these games, I'm not trying anything different. I'm going to throw down and away cutters, and I'm going to bounce some curveballs and that's what I did."
Sitting in the bullpen, watching Miller, Harris had an inkling he might get the call from Yost. Given the nature of the All-Star Game, where no pitcher is going to be extended, Harris was ready.
"I knew they weren't going to let guys go 20, 25 pitches," he said. "You watch the game, you see Andrew get a couple guys on base and the phone rang. I was pretty sure it was going to be me. I was excited."
While Harris' contributions directly impacted the outcome of the game, fortunately for Jose Altuve fans, the second baseman's 0-for-3 didn't hurt the AL team. Altuve chuckled at his All-Star hitless streak, which has now reached seven at-bats, dating back to his first in 2013.
"Oh my God. It seems like I'm never going to get a hit in the All-Star Game," Altuve said with a quick roll of his eyes. "An 0-for-7, the guys are out there telling me, 'Don't worry.' But I would like to get one one day."
Still, the hitless performance didn't take away the satisfaction Altuve received from simply being a part of the AL All-Star team for the fourth time.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "To look around the field and see guys like Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Robinson Cano ... everybody. I really enjoyed my time being an All-Star. This is a dream come true. No matter how many you have, it's always good to have one more."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.