A premonition for Wednesday’s game. “Here comes AJ Hinch to the mound, the Astros are making another pitching change!”
The Astros are so close to clinching the AL West that they can already taste the champagne and beer. As we wrote about earlier, the Astros have a magic number of three as they play their final seven games of the season. Unfortunately, they are on the road, so fans can’t celebrate at Minute Maid Park in the stands. But they are ready to look ahead at the matchups in the playoffs.
The team can’t look past the Blue Jays and Orioles. They need to clinch the AL West soon. That’s what they look to do in their three-game set in Toronto that begins tonight. Dallas Keuchel will get the Astros going, followed by Josh James on Tuesday. Framber Valdez was scheduled to make a start on Tuesday, but he came in after Charlie Morton was removed after throwing only one inning Sunday. AJ Hinch decided to move up James to pitch Tuesday, meaning they needed a starter for Wednesday.
Are the Astros joining the opener fad?
The fad right now is to have an opener, a reliever who would only pitch one inning. Opposing offenses tend to have their best hitters hitting at the top of the lineup. So this opener would face the best hitters before handing the ball off to the long guy in the second inning. With how Keuchel has struggled in the first inning, you know fans wish the Astros would do that. However, it will devalue starters in the long run as more teams do it.
After yesterday’s game, Hinch was asked who would start on Wednesday (Tuesday at the time)? Hinch replied that they would discuss it on the plane ride. According to Jake Kaplan, on Wednesday, the Astros will have a bullpen day. Unlike the last time they had a bullpen day, they don’t have Valdez available to eat up the innings.
Dean Deetz has not been effective in the big leagues this year and isn’t stretched out to start a game. Brady Rodgers has already been sent home after coming back from Tommy John surgery. There weren’t too many options available on the 40-man roster to make a start.
The Astros did add two more pitchers to the active roster.
Lance McCullers has finally been activated from the DL. He has been out of action since August 5th with the forearm muscle strain. Without a MiLB team still playing, McCullers didn’t get a chance to get back to full speed. He is expected to be a reliever upon his return, possibly in October as well. Maybe they could use him as the opener on Wednesday, then go to the bullpen. Get him back out there in a role he’s accustomed to.
The problem with that idea is you need to bring McCullers into a game as a reliever, not as a starter. Even if he’s only due to throwing one inning. He needs to be able to ramp up quickly to come into any situation in October quickly. Brad Peacock could also start that game on Wednesday. Collin McHugh could be the long guy, but won’t throw more than three innings. Cionel Perez hasn’t pitched much, but I doubt the Astros put him the game if they have a chance to clinch.
Because of the bullpen day, they have recalled Reymin Guduan from his couch to join the team. The Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs last week. By adding Guduan, they are adding that extra arm not to burn the main relievers arms out.
However, this could all be for not! The Astros are likely to use the matchups to decide who pitches when. As we discussed on Talking Stros last night, the playoffs roster is a little fluid at the moment. They still plan on giving Morton one last start before the season ends. If you like pitching changes, you will see a lot on Wednesday.