The Astros have 95 wins in 2017 with eight games remaining in the regular season.
If the Astros win five of eight games, they will reach 100 wins for only the second time in franchise history. That would be nice, but the focus at this point is staying ahead of the Red Sox and overtaking the Indians, if possible. However, just winning will help their cause.
The Astros front office is a very analytical group. You can’t say that they wouldn’t prefer to face a particular team over another. With the current state of the standings, the Astros will most likely face the Red Sox in the ALDS starting October 5th. With that being the possibility, they could face the Red Sox in up to nine games in a row. They will not show the Red Sox their aces in the final four regular-season games.
No aces versus the Red Sox?
Look for Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander to pitch versus the Rangers on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Astros will have to start four pitchers not named Keuchel and Verlander. That is something that is not a big issue for the Astros. Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers will most likely start those games.
There is a chance for Mike Fiers to get a start as well as a bullpen game like the Angels did yesterday. This could be an option if the Stros want to limit the exposures of Peacock and/or Morton. Peacock has been penciled into the playoff rotation at the moment. With Morton’s impressive start yesterday, he could be working himself into being a favorite.
"“I’d like the ball. Whenever, put me in whenever.” – Morton via Kaplan."
Morton a dark horse?
Morton pitched seven innings allowing only one run on a Justin Upton homer. He lowered his ERA to 3.63 on the season while getting his 13th win of the season. Morton has shown a great mix of fastballs and breaking pitches, but his control was on point Sunday afternoon. He pitched seven innings while only throwing 81 pitches.
According to Jake Kaplan, Morton was a little under the weather. This could be the reason why he was not kept in for the eighth inning. Either way, the Astros have plenty of options for the rotation when the playoffs roll around. Let’s take a look at the stats from ESPN, with most of Verlander’s stats coming with the Tigers.
While there are no 20-game winners on the staff, this rotation can compete with them all. Morton has only pitched versus the Red Sox once, shutting them out over five innings. All eyes will be on McCullers as he gets the start against the Rangers. There may not be enough time to stretch him out as a starter, but he could be a flame-thrower out of the bullpen.
If you want an answer for who will be in the rotation, we will discuss it later on Talking Stros before today’s game on SportsTalk 790. McHugh will probably be the long-reliever with McCullers as a reliever. Things can change between now and the start of the playoffs. It’s never a bad thing to have too many starters.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and ESPN***