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Astros: Josh James impresses picking up his first MLB win

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HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park on September 1, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park on September 1, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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The Astros’ right-hander played a crucial role in the team’s 7-0 win over Seattle last night.

Josh James got his first Major League start and showed early on why the Astros made him one of their September call-ups. The hard-throwing right-hander dominated Mariners hitters, and left them clueless at the plate. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, two walks, and striking out seven to pick up his fist Major League victory.

James topped out at 100 mph, making him easily the hardest throwing player on the team. His velocity remained consistent at around 97-98 mph and makes him an interesting candidate for the playoffs adding to an already stacked bullpen. During the games James threw 49 fastballs, 18 changeups and 20 sliders that made the heavy lefty lineup for the Mariners look baffled at the plate.

His best inning was in the top of the 4th where he had runners on first and second with two outs when the Astros were leading 4-0. Chris Herrmann the eighth hitter for Seattle stepped up to the plate. It was a six pitch at-bat that finished in Herrmann striking out on a 98 mph fastball on the inside corner.

James raved about catcher Brain McCann who helped him feel comfortable on the mound per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

"“My challenge was to keep my ball straight and not let it run back over the plate to the lefties,” James said. “[Catcher Brian McCann] did a great job of calling the game. He kind of guided me through it. That was huge.”"

With the win, the Astros magic number to clinch a playoff spot is two, as the Rays are still in wild card contention. The Astros now sit five games ahead of Oakland and look to clinch a spot in the postseason for the second year in a row.

Road to the Majors

James didn’t have any easy path to the majors, he started as a JUCO player and found himself at Western Oklahoma State College, where he was drafted in the 34th round by the Astros. He didn’t have great numbers in college posting a 3.78 ERA and was throwing a low-90’s fastball. He was drafted primarily for his frame, but he has since moved past that becoming one of the hardest throwing players in the Astros organization.

James started the year in Double-A Corpus Christi and dominated hitters there and only made six appearances before he was moved to Triple-A Fresno where he led the Pacific Coast League in strikeout rate, strikeout to walks ratio, and swinging strike rate. He ended up pitching 114.1 innings in the minors this year and had a 2.97 ERA while holding opponents average under .200. His best outing in the minors was on June 5th where Fresno played Colorado Springs striking out 13 batters in 7 innings.

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Overview.

In only 10 2/3 innings of work in the big leagues Josh James has impressed so far. Personally, I believe he is the missing piece to the Astros bullpen for the playoffs, he would become the hardest thrower in the bullpen as well as having the ability to work multiple innings. It’s a clouded bullpen as the Astros will have to make key decisions on who makes the final roster. The odds are stacked against James but should have the ability to make a couple more appearances to help convince the Astros that he’s deserving of a postseason spot.

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