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Houston Astros: The Astros Need Relief in the Wild-Card Game

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Now that the Houston Astros have made their first postseason in a decade, they will have to make some roster decisions prior to the Wild Card game against the New York Yankees tomorrow night. Manager A.J. Hinch has been able to take advantage of their deep farm system with a heavy rotation of players with the expanded September roster, but they will have to trim back on that again. So where do they make cuts?

The first issue is obvious — they need some insurance if Dallas Keuchel doesn’t hold up. He comes in sporting a 16-inning scoreless streak against the Yankees, which is a great thing to have going for you. But he’s never started on three days’ rest in his career, and he didn’t previously face the Yankees on short rest at the end of a season in which he’d already set a career high in innings.

The Astros should keep plenty of relief pitchers on hand, just in case, especially a long relief option. They could either go Vincent Velasquez or Scott Kazmir on that. Kazmir is rested from his previous start, and with the way he’s been pitching lately (0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in September, 10.02 ERA in his last three starts) he doesn’t demand a place in the postseason rotation should the Astros make it past the Wild Card game.

So it comes down to whether they are willing to risk Kazmir’s recent performance to take his experience over Velasquez’s youth. As much as I like Velasquez and as bad as Kazmir has been lately, I’m not throwing a kid into an emergency one-game playoff to try to save the season. They choose Kazmir for long relief.

Lance McCullers is clearly, not an option, and I would keep Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers off the roster since they are their likely game 1 and 2 starters in a potential ALDS series.

That makes Hinch’s one-game pitching staff Keuchel, Kazmir, Josh Fields, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Pat Neshek (who I wouldn’t mind leaving off but we know that won’t happen), Oliver Perez, Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp.

That leaves 16 position players to use, down from the 18 they have used the last few weeks. Who makes the cut?

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They can’t lose any of the outfielders or their DH, obviously. I really don’t think they will go in with three catchers, even though I would at least for one game. I do not want to see Hank Conger‘s defense with their season on the line. But we know they are not leaving off Conger, so Max Stassi has to go. I’ll save that gripe for another day. He’s played well in very limited time, but he’s only had two plate appearances in the last 12 games. I don’t think he makes the cut even though I would personally rather see him than Conger.

That leaves one more spot to eliminate and I think it’s Jon Singleton. He doesn’t have the versatility of Jonathan Villar and he hasn’t hit as well as Matt Duffy (who is eligible, just to clarify — he wasn’t called up until mid-September but you only have to have been with the organization by Aug. 31). Singleton was the last called up and I think he’s the first to go.

To say nothing of the fact that they already have their high-power/high-walk/high-strikeout guy in Chris Carter, who has really lit it up lately. He’s hitting .349 with 6 home runs since Sept. 15th. The Astros really don’t need Singleton while Carter is hitting like that.

There will be far more decisions (and more difficult ones) to make should the Astros advance. But for now, my guess is this is what they go with — two starters, a lot of relievers and even more position players for Hinch to make substitutions with. Go ‘Stros.

Next: Houston Astros Make Playoffs for First Time in Ten Years!

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