Keep an eye on Wilton Lopez.

Matt Lindstrom is going to be on a hiatus from closing games for the Astros for the time being, and although we do not yet know how temporary or permanent that break will be, keep an eye on an interesting closer candidate: Wilton Lopez.

Lopez was called on to finish off Tuesday’s win over the Mets. He was given that opportunity mainly because Brandon Lyon has been pitching a lot lately and needs some rest, but these are the types of situations that pop up and give a young pitcher a chance to show he can handle the job.

Lopez is an interesting study. He’s only 27 yet has been in professional baseball since 2002, when the Yankees signed him as a non-drafted free agent from his native Nicaragua. Ed Wade picked Lopez up off of waivers from San Diego in April of 2009 and he spent the entire season with Double-A Corpus Christi, until late August, when the Astros called him up to the big leagues.

This year, Lopez has slowly emerged as one of the Astros’ most reliable relievers and continues to respond favorably when put in more challenging situations. One of the most important stats for a reliever is how many times he comes to a game with runners on base and allows those runners to score. Lopez has inherited 26 runners this year, and has stranded 25 of them. That shows that not only is he pitching well, but he can answer the bell in stressful situations, and seeing he’s being used in the later innings, he clearly can handle performing when the game’s on the line.

Is he closer material? That’s to be determined. But he’s growing on manager Brad Mills, who has gushed about how much Lopez embraces the tough situations. He simply likes to be right in the middle of the action, and there’s no more drama-filled situation than the ninth inning when his team is ahead by three or fewer runs. Keep an eye on this right-hander. He just may turn into something pretty special.

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Postgame notes after a 4-3 Astros win:

Houston starters have not allowed more than two runs in each of their last seven games, posting a 2-0 record and 1.79 ERA over that span. The club is 4-3 in those games.

Hunter Pence connected for his 17th and 18th homers of the season and has now reached base safely in 22 straight games, a career long streak. The run started on July 23 and since that date, Pence has hit .383 with five homers and 22 RBIs and a .404 on-base percentage.

Michael Bourn started against Johan Santana and went 2-for-4. In his career, Bourn has hit Santana well, going 4-for-8 against the southpaw.

Angel Sanchez extended his hitting streak to five games, during which he’s hitting .318. Sanchez has now hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games.

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Thanks to everyone who signed up for our first Social Media night, scheduled for Aug. 31. We sold out of the event but judging from the favorable response, we’ll surely be having more of these in the future. Look for multiple Social Media nights in 2011.

Participants (and non-participants, if you wish) are invited to vote on what we serve for dinner on Aug. 31. The choices are listed below but you MUST vote over Twitter. So tweet me your vote, and we’ll reveal the winner soon.

Choice 1: MONSTER CHICKEN NACHOS: Crispy Sherriff Blaylock Tortilla Chips, Grilled Chicken, Charro Beans, Premium Queso, Pico De Gallo, Salsa Rojo and Fresh Sliced Jalapenos.

Choice 2: TEXAS SIRLOIN BURGER
Grilled Fresh Ground Sirloin Burger on a Bakery Fresh Onion Roll topped with Pancetta, Mushrooms, Beer Battered Onion Ring, Cheddar Cheese, Tangy Bar-B-Que Sauce, Blonde Bar-B-Que Sauce, Lettuce and Tomato with Bacon & Blue Cheese Potato Salad.

Choice 3: SMOKEHOUSE BALLPARK BBQ SANDWICH
Pulled Smoked BBQ Pork served on a Pretzel Roll, Pepper-Jack Cheese, Sweet Pickle Chips and Beer Battered Onion Rings served with Country Cabbage Slaw.

Dinner will be capped off with Blue Bell Half Pints and Fresh Baked Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Yum!

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Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com

2 Comments

Wilton Lopez became a favorite of mine early in the season. He plays hard and appreciates the fans. I’ve taken my son to 4 games this season and he got his autograph each time. The first game I took him to was with his whole Little League team and he signed autographs for everyone of the boys. I see Wilton Lopez as a future Heart and Hustle nominee, and possibly the winner. He reminds me alot of Miguel Tejada.

well here is my take. The heads that be finally moved the lead anchore from the clubhouse (LB). A great guy, with a complacient attitude. The youth movement is awsome. All Jason Castro need to do is calm down. He has the goods, just needs to do it. Keppi needs to bench up and be like Denny Whalling of old. No shame there. One heck of a bench player. Move either Angel Sanches, or Tommy Manzella to 2nd. My take would be Angel , he has the look that he can do the switch better(eager to play). Even though there will be a all rookie infield, theses kids can jell together, and be like the KC,CB,JB of that era. Lindstrome has the look that he doesnt want to be here. Looked the same in Florida. I say let him go. BL, and Wl can handle the closing. Outfield is set except for left. No comment, just play Jonny Hustle if you get my drift (JM). With the money saved from The 2 trades and letting linstrom walk, there will be plenty to find at least 1 maybe even 2 starters( we may already have 1 in Nelson F,) time will tell. Honestly I see this team digging themselves out from below 500 to at least a 500 team this season, and possibly becomming continders next year. Ed Wade my hat is off to you. Great job on mixing vets with youth. Hard core fans dont understand what needs to be done sometimes, but to have a reall tasty peach, you need to prune the tree.
I have met Drayton, and he deserves a winner.

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