A Look at the Houston Astros Rotation for the ALDS


A Look at the Houston Astros Rotation

Houston knows as well as anyone, from their World Series run in 2005, how much pitching can carry a team through the post-season. Now that the Astros have used ace Dallas Keuchel to propel themselves to the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals, where do they turn for the next 3-5 games in the Houston Astros rotation?

They have already announced that Collin McHugh will get the ball for game one. Not sure there was much dispute on that. But, unlike the Wild Card, the next stage isn’t a one-game playoff. Let’s take a quick look at where the Astros are likely to turn (and where they perhaps should turn) as they continue their playoff run.

Game 1 – Thursday, Oct. 8 at KC, 6:37 p.m. CT

McHugh was the no-brainer. He’s been their best post-All-Star Game starter aside from Keuchel, going 10-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. The games against the Texas Rangers distort his numbers down the stretch, but aside from getting owned by them (because everyone was, including Keuchel), McHugh was one of the few guys who kept it together while everything else was going wrong. He hasn’t been credited with a loss since August 20 when he went 7IP/1R against the Tampa Bay Rays. So, in the absence of Keuchel, he is absolutely who I want potentially making two starts for the Astros in the ALDS.

Game 2 – Friday, Oct. 9 at KC, 2:45 p.m. CT

Astros will probably…start Scott Kazmir (for the record, I wrote this before the games 1-3 starters were announced. I just want to get credit for calling it right). I presumed this as soon as I saw that Mike Fiers was their emergency long reliever for the Wild Card game. Lefties fare a little better against the Royals, and I think the Astros will count on Kazmir being able to neutralize Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon even though Kazmir’s numbers against lefties are really bad (.348 BAA, 1.63 WHIP since he’s been with the Astros).

I’m also worried about it because Kazmir has had serious fielding issues, and that is not what you want against a speedy bunting team like the Royals. But the two things you have to like about it: Kazmir has dominated the Royals this year (went 7+ innings against them three times and never allowed more than three runs); and, if there’s anywhere you want Kazmir starting, it’s on the road. Since joining the Astros, he’s been much better on the road (3.37 ERA) than at home (5.28 ERA).

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Astros should…start Fiers. That Kazmir dominance of the Royals is ancient history. His last start against them was July 24 when he was still good. He posted a 6.52 ERA in September and hasn’t even pitched through the 5th inning in his last three starts. Opponents hit .328 against Kazmir last month. You can’t put that on the mound in the playoffs. Fiers has been quality in three of his last four starts. He doesn’t blow the doors off, but he also won’t get his doors blown off, and that’s their best game two option. I stand by this, and I hope the decision isn’t as terrible as I’m afraid it will be.

Game 3 – Sunday, Oct. 11 at Houston, 3:10 p.m. CT

Astros will probably and should…start Keuchel. No brainer. He’s their ace, and this is the earliest he’s available. And if you think he was good in New York on short rest, wait until he’s on full rest in Houston, where he’s 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA this year. What more could you ask for in a potentially series-clinching or series-saving game?

Game 4 (if necessary) – Monday, Oct. 12 at Houston, TBD

Astros will probably…start Fiers. I think they will favor a veteran in, again, a potential series-saving game. And they could do worse than Fiers, who has certainly been very comfortable at Minute Maid Park with his no-hitter and 1.67 ERA.

Astros should…start Lance McCullers, Jr. Call it a gut thing, but I just have more faith in McCullers in a high-leverage scenario like game four than I have in Fiers. I think McCullers has the best stuff and he’s been dominant at home (4-1, 1.86 ERA, 0.92 WHIP). Pitching him here rather than in game two would also give him a little extra rest he could probably use. I really hope McCullers makes his way into the postseason at some point. I’m concerned the Astros will want to shut him down because he’s already gone so far over his previous high for innings pitched.

Game 5 (if necessary) – Wednesday, Oct. 14 at KC, TBD 

Astros will probably and should…start McHugh. Technically they could go with the fifth of whoever they didn’t previously use between Fiers and McCullers, but why would they? McHugh is clearly their best option, assuming they don’t have him go on short rest in game 4 (unnecessary with such a deep rotation). Even starting this game still lines him up perfectly to start at least game 3 of a potential ALCS series, if not game 2.

Next: The Houston Astros Turned the Big Apple to Crush City in Wild-Card Win