Astros: Justin Verlander to open the playoffs on the mound?
By Eric Huysman
Are the Astros leaning towards Justin Verlander to open the postseason?
Everyone wants to know who will be on the Astros playoff roster come October 5th for their first game. From what it sounds like, the roster for the ALDS will depend on who they are facing. The bullpen could fluctuate between series to series, but the top three in the rotation should be consistent.
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, and Brad Peacock will be the top three starters. Meanwhile, the fourth starter spot is up for grabs between Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers. At this point, the nod would probably have to go to Morton.
For most of the season, it was assumed that McCullers would be the second pitcher in the Astros playoff roster. He made the 2017 All-Star team but didn’t make an appearance. According to Brian McTaggart, Hinch said that he wants to see McCullers pitch twice before they determine his playoff role. Kaplan said McCullers bullpen yesterday went well, but no word whether he will start Sunday.
Who’s on first?
As I mentioned earlier, Keuchel and Verlander will be the top two pitchers in any combination. Who will A.J. Hinch start on October 5th? The common belief was that the Astros will go with their homegrown guy Keuchel who was the ace pitcher in the 2015 playoffs. This may still be the case should the Astros matchup against the Yankees. Keuchel has proven success versus the Yankees.
This is exactly what Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated said in his article. Verducci said that the game one starter will be, “Verlander, because he’s been the most dominant pitcher in baseball since the middle of August (5–0, 1.29 ERA).” He said nothing is set in stone, but this is what the Astros are planning to do.
Verlander off to a great start with the Astros.
As I mentioned on this week’s Talking Stros, Verlander’s stats through three games compares somewhat to Randy Johnson‘s first starts with Houston in 1998. Johnson pitched 25 innings in his first three starts with an 3-0 (0.72 ERA) while striking out 33 hitters. Verlander meanwhile has pitched 21 innings with a 0.86 ERA while striking out 26 hitters.
While Johnson had more of an impact during the 1998 regular season, Verlander will be on the team through 2019. The addition of Verlander is exactly what the Astros need, a big time pitcher for the playoffs. The Astros are also lining him up to not pitch in Boston to end the season.
Next: Astros: Joe Musgrove has been a revelation in the bullpen
According to Jake Kaplan, by starting Keuchel tomorrow, he would pitch against the Rangers on Wednesday. Why give the Red Sox a possible preview of Verlander? If Verlander starts game one, he could pitch game five or game one of the ALCS. This is getting exciting.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***