HOUSTON --- While visiting flood victims at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday afternoon, Astros reliever Joe Musgrove carried a pair of white cleats. He met with kids and volunteers and got nearly 50 people to sign the shoes, draw on them or decorate them however they wanted.
Musgrove proudly wore those cleats when he entered the second game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Mets in a critical juncture. He pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, in the Astros' 4-1 win at Minute Maid Park.
"You felt like you were carrying everybody in your heart on the field today," said Musgrove, who was among a large contingent of Astros players, staff, broadcasters and family members who on Friday visited those displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
Musgrove will have the spikes authenticated and auctioned off to raise money for flood victims.
"I thought it was a perfect opportunity to take them over there when we were seeing all the kids and give them something to get excited about and let them design them and color them and draw them however they wanted," he said. "I told them I was going to wear them, and I said, 'Watch the game tomorrow and you might see your name on TV and see shoes and know you're a part of it.' That was really special."
Musgrove was called upon after Francisco Liriano walked Brandon Nimmo to load the bases with the Mets leading, 1-0. Musgrove fell behind Gavin Cecchini, 3-0, before getting him to pop out in foul territory. He sent down six of the next eight batters he faced; he hasn't been scored upon in 14 of 15 relief outings this season.
"It's always a little bit of an adrenaline rush coming out of the bullpen, and it's always a different situation," said Musgrove, who started the season in the rotation. "Coming into that situation, I felt ready. Falling behind, 3-0, is not the best way to start that inning, but I was able to squeak out of there. After we put up four [runs] in [our half of the inning], I felt good going out to attack and throw everything at them."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to stay away from Francis Martes, Will Harris, Luke Gregerson and Tyler Clippard in Game 2 after they had pitched in Game 1, but he's growing more comfortable using Musgrove no matter who's available. The big right-hander has more zip on his fastball and a sharper slider pitching out of the bullpen.
"We were pretty thin, so Joe coming in after Liriano, I felt like the game was on the line," Hinch said. "He's starting to inch his way toward a lot of these outings. We used him in the eighth inning, I used him in the seventh inning, and now he's gone multiple innings. He's got some versatility to him. His pitches have gotten better out of the bullpen, and his confidence is sky high. Any time the game is on the line, I trust him."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.