Can the Astros trust Hector Rondon in the playoffs?
At the beginning of the year, the Houston Astros had a problem in the bullpen by the name of Ken Giles. When Giles proved ineffective and had his second meltdown, the Astros made the reliable Hector Rondon the new closer. At the trade deadline, the Astros shipped away Giles in return for Roberto Osuna. Along with the baggage that came with Osuna, they got a better closer for the playoffs.
While Rondon has gotten some saves here and there, Osuna is the primary choice to close a ballgame. There may be times where the matchups favor using Rondon, but he has been shaky recently. Rondon was not up to the task in last nights 10-5 win trying to preserve a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning. It all started with a walk, ending with the Angels scoring five runs to take the lead.
Rondon would only last 1/3 innings, but he did allow a run that got the Angels rally started. Joe Smith did not help the cause, giving up three runs, including a homer by Mike Trout. People on Twitter started freaking out after AJ Hinch‘s decision to bring in Rondon in the first place. Wait, are we talking about the same reliever who dominated in the first half of the season?
Why are people questioning bringing Rondon in?
In his past three appearances, Rondon has blown two saves with a 21.00 ERA, raising his season ERA from 2.15 to 3.16. He has allowed seven runs in three innings pitched over that span. In addition to the two blown saves, he is 0-2 during that stretch. It would have been 0-3 if it weren’t for the nine runs they scored in the eighth inning. Stats from Baseball-Reference. While this game ended on a positive note with the win is it time to be concerned about Rondon.
We saw something similar with Chris Devenski before he lost his mojo. I still think it’s there, but he is unlikely to make the postseason roster. Relievers can go through funks throughout the season. He may be hitting a wall, but he had not approached his career high games (72 games) in 2015. He has pitched in 54 games this year for the Astros.
The bigger question is why Hinch pulled Rondon out in favor of Smith after three hitters. Has the manager lost his faith in Rondon? It could have been due to more favorable matchups with Smith. Rondon left before the clubhouse opened for reporters, but Hinch talked about Rondon after the game. See Chandler Rome’s tweet above. Don’t look for Rondon to pitch today, but they will give him the opportunity to turn things around.
When Rondon is right, he can be one of the better relievers on the team. Hopefully, it’s just a temporary slump, but at the wrong time of the season. If he continues to struggle, the Astros may have to look elsewhere for a reliever on the postseason roster. They will give him a shot first, he does have 14 saves this year.