The Astros front office and A.J. Hinch have recently been improvising their starting rotation out of necessity, and it’s worked out quite well lately.
With the 1-2-3 punch of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Wade Miley, along with rookies Rogelio Armenteros and Jose Urquidy, this makeshift rotation of the Astros has been pitching phenomenal baseball. The recent six-game winning streak and a record of 7-1 over the last eight games have been the proof in the pudding.
In that eight-game span, the Astros starters only allowed nine earned runs in 51.1 innings of work. That calculates out to a very impressive 1.58 ERA. In total, the starting rotation gave up 30 hits and 11 walks while compiling 79 strikeouts.
When you’re striking out almost twice as many batters than you allow to reach base, good things are bound to happen. The five starters combined carried a 0.799 WHIP and had a ratio of 12.10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. These are all numbers you would expect from a team’s ace pitcher, not five different starters over eight games.
One of the biggest surprises were the starts by Armenteros and Urquidy this past week. Between the two of them, they ate up 12 innings and only gave up two earned runs, one apiece. The two pitchers also amassed 15 strikeouts while walking just two batters. Both rookies earned their first Major League wins.
Cole’s last two games almost mirrored each other. In each outing, he pitched seven innings, allowed one run, struck out eleven and walked just one batter per game. Yes, you saw that right, 22 Ks and just 2 BBs for an 11.0 SO/BB ratio.
Verlander wasn’t about to let Cole outdo him. So he piles up 23 strikeouts and walks just three in his two wins for a lofty 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Miley won just one of his two appearances but still had two nice showings allowing just three runs for a 2.03 ERA. Unbelievably, that was the highest ERA of all five pitchers over that period.
Another big plus provided by the starters was the numbers of innings they covered, keeping the relievers resting in the bullpen. In the seven games following the All-Star break, the relievers were utilized 37.1 innings. In the last eight games, the pen came in for just 22.2 innings. That’s nearly half the amount of innings per game from the bullpen, a much-needed break.
What transpires from here is anyone’s guess. Counting the night off today, the Astros will have four days off in the next 15 days. That could possibly allow Hinch to skip over the fifth starter once or twice, and hopefully, a healthy Brad Peacock will be returning to the staff soon. But these five starters have given a huge boost to the entire pitching staff and to the Houston Astros.