The Houston Astros opened up the 2017 season with a solid 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
There were so many positives that stood out from this Houston Astros victory. For example, a leadoff home run from George Springer. A superb quality start by Dallas Keuchel with two nice defensive plays by the southpaw. Carlos Correa bashing a baseball out of Minute Maid Park. The bullpen holding the lead and Ken Giles closing the ninth with three strikeouts.
However, there was a definite spot in the eighth inning, where the Astros basically won a coin flip battle. Luke Gregerson retired the first two batters of the inning, then Jean Segura got an infield hit. This was followed by a walk to Mitch Haniger, setting up a two-out show down with Robinson Cano.
Last year alone, Cano hit .351 with nine home runs in 19 games against Houston. Over his career he has hit .317 against right-handed pitchers, and .287 versus lefties. This would be the perfect situation to bring in a left-handed reliever.
Good news Astros fans, after a wild pitch to advance both base runners into scoring position, and after getting behind in the count against Cano, Gregerson won the battle. Well, he barely won the battle. Cano still squared up the ball, but luckily Springer had a good read on it in right field, and made the play.
So why didn’t A.J. Hinch go to the lefty in the bullpen?
Tony Sipp was available and could have come in to face the Mariners slugger. Well, there are two reasons. One, Cano in 19 at bats versus Sipp is hitting .368 with three home runs. But secondly, and most obvious is that Sipp has lost whatever edge he had before getting signed to a multi-year deal.
This is not breaking news, this has been discussed since last year when Sipp struggled the entire season. It has been apparent during spring training as Sipp did not impress in the Grapefruit League. Minor-league prospect Reymin Guduan is possibly Houston’s next best option as a left-handed reliever.
If this were last season, one could imagine Cano hitting the ball with a little more arc, over the fence for a game-tying home run.
But one game in to the new season, Astros pitching worked out of a couple of jams and got the win. However, after only one game, the Astros were put in a bad situation, that could not be remedied because of a personnel handcuff.
The Astros front office have made great strides in improving the offense, and the starting rotation still may need some help. But one definite, glaring need is a reliable left-handed arm in the bullpen, and that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com**