Gregerson thrown into fire, quickly puts it out

Astros reliever induces key DP in return from left ankle injury

Gregerson thrown into fire, quickly puts it out

HOUSTON -- A ground ball turned into an inning-ending double play, and just like that, Luke Gregerson was back.

The veteran reliever, pitching for the first time since Aug. 18 because of a nagging left ankle injury, needed only two pitches to get Oakland's Yonder Alonso to hit into a 1-6-3 double play that ended the sixth inning of the Astros' 6-0 victory Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

"It's like riding a bike, you know?" Gregerson said. "You get out there and just do what we've been doing our whole lives. It was a nice way to get through that inning."

Gregerson, who started the season as the Astros' closer, has been one of Houston's most effective relievers, though injuries have slowed him in the second half. In 21 appearances since June 6, he has allowed seven hits and three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings with 29 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .101 against him in that span with a 0.63 WHIP.

It's for that reason Astros manager A.J. Hinch wasn't bashful about throwing the veteran into the fire in a tight game Monday. Hinch said he told Gregerson to be ready to go in the fifth, sixth or seventh, and then he handed him the ball with runners at first and third and one out in the sixth.

"I didn't know when the ideal spot to bring him in was. I trust him with the ball in his hand as much as anybody," he said. "I don't care he hasn't pitched in a couple of weeks. He knows how to navigate innings. In that spot, highest leverage, big spot, we needed him to come in and he got ready for [Marcus] Semien. We went to him a hitter early and he got the Alonso double play. Even when you lay it out perfectly, sometimes I change my mind, and he adjusted accordingly and made a big pitch."

Gregerson fielded Alonso's chopper back to the mound and whirled to throw to shortstop Carlos Correa covering second base for the start of a double play.

"I didn't try to do anything out of the ordinary that I wouldn't have normally have done in that situation," he said. "It just happened to work out that way. Happy it did."

Monday's appearance was only Gregerson's third in August. Before injuring his ankle, he was on the disabled list earlier in the month with a left oblique strain. Like any competitor, the sidelines are the last place he wanted to be.

"It's been crappy is the best way to put it," he said. "It's hard to sit around while everyone is out there grinding, especially this late in the season. You're just kind of sitting back and nursing whatever it is you're nursing and have to watch and wait."

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.