There’s such a thing as being too cute. There’s no question that manager Bo Porter was cute on Monday when he had lefty reliever Tony Sipp play right field for one batter in the middle of an inning before returning to the mound.

“I talked to him when he first came here and I watched him shag fly balls, he’s a power shagger,” Porter said. “So we’re completely comfortable putting him out there in the outfield. I made sure he had his outfield glove on the bench.”

Too cute? Well, the Astros won, 4-3 over the Diamondbacks. But the potential was there for Porter’s maneuvering to backfire and shatter an otherwise fine night.

It didn’t. Maybe that’s the difference between the 2014 Astros and the 2013 Astros. Things just work a little better.

The Astros’ bullpen hasn’t been as stable lately as it was for most of May, but the great pace the relievers set in May was also unsustainable. Monday was an edge-of-your-seat ride.

Asked on Sunday if he prefers the strategic style of play in the National League to the American League, Porter was diplomatic ahead of his first game of the season without the designated hitter. But there’s no way he didn’t enjoy Monday’s eighth inning — and then feel his stomach turn a bit in the ninth.

Before the game, Porter talked about how having three lefthanders in the bullpen was a luxury. Sipp, Darin Downs and Rudy Owens are all on the roster.

But Downs threw 2 2/3 innings on Sunday, making him unavailable, and Porter said he didn’t want to burn Owens, the long man, in case the game got tied. (Owens is also a rookie who’s never pitched out of the bullpen in the majors.)

That left Sipp as the man of the hour.

With the ‘Stros up 4-3, Sipp allowed a two-out walk in the seventh inning that turned scary three pitches later, when lefthanded hitter Didi Gregorious ripped one to the warning track in right field, but playable for Alex Presley. Sipp got a little lucky.
In the eighth, Sipp struck out the first batter, Gerardo Parra. Then Porter got creative.