HOUSTON -- One of the reasons the Astros' bullpen has flourished in the past three weeks has been veteran Chad Qualls, who's settled nicely into the closer's role and is throwing the ball as well as he has in the last couple of years.
Qualls saved consecutive games Thursday and Friday, throwing 1 1/3 innings for his fifth save in Friday's win. He has not allowed a run in 17 of his last 18 appearances, including each of his last 14 games covering 12 2/3 innings.
This season marks his first chance to close since he saved 45 games with the D-backs from 2008-10.
"I got the chance [to close] from [manager] Bob Melvin in Arizona in 2008 at the end of the year and hurt my knee, and it kind of derailed me for a little bit," he said. "I feel good. I feel like I've thrown the ball real well for the last year in Miami and the beginning of this year. I hit a funny patch there for 2 1/2 years, but I feel like I finally found my groove again and I'm having fun again and throwing the ball the way I'm used to and the way I enjoy throwing."
With Qualls firmly entrenched as closer, the rest of the relievers have been able to settle into their roles as well. The Astros' bullpen had posted a Major League-best 1.17 ERA in Houston's previous 17 games entering Saturday.
"When [Qualls] got going, it obviously helped our bullpen," manager Bo Porter said. "You had that guy at the back end, and you feel like if we had a lead in the ninth, it doesn't matter who's coming up, you can give him the ball."