Here’s a look at the Houston Astros playoff rotation without Justin Verlander.
There’s no denying that the loss of Justin Verlander, which was made final this weekend, is a huge blow to the Houston Astros chances to advance in the playoffs. Having the future Hall of Famer back on the mound would’ve been just the kind of boost this team needed. But now they will have to move forward without him in their postseason rotation.
The good news is that, as things currently stand, the Astros have enough candidates to fill out a rotation in this crazy postseason schedule. It might not be as strong as it would have been with Verlander aboard, but it’ll do. The bullpen will take a hit as well, as it could lose one of these rotation candidates.
Of course the biggest question mark for this team right now is the offense, which has been struggling to score runs despite having everyone aside from Yordan Alvarez. If the lineup can come around and string some good at-bats together, the pitching won’t be quite as crucial.
Wild Card Round
The Astros will need three starting pitchers in the best-of-three Wild Card round, and we know Zack Greinke will be one of them. Even though he hasn’t been quite as sharp lately as he was in August, he’s the most experienced pitcher and the most likely option to start the series’ first game. He’s the ace, and Dusty Baker will use him as such.
Barring a disaster in his final start of the season, I would expect Jose Urquidy to get a start. He’s been brilliant since coming off the IL, working to a 2.78 ERA in four starts. If he puts up another solid start against the Angels, I think Baker will ride the hot hand and give him a shot. He did toss five scoreless innings in the World Series last year, after all.
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The third spot will come down to Lance McCullers and Framber Valdez. As good as Cristian Javier has been, he’s shown he can be a dynamic weapon in the bullpen and I think he’ll be utilized that way. McCullers has been wildly inconsistent this year but has a higher ceiling than Valdez. It may come down to who looks more in sync when the season is over.
If The Astros Advance
If the Astros manage to make it through the Wild Card round, they’ll need a full five-man rotation moving forward, as there are no off days in the Division Series or League Championship Series. In that scenario, they’ll likely use all of Greinke, Urquidy, McCullers, Valdez and Javier in the rotation.
If anyone gets hurt, Luis Garcia and Josh James would be the next men up, but they don’t have much depth beyond that. They really can’t afford any further injuries to the pitching staff, especially given the fact that the bullpen is shaky and lacking depth. The Astros can cobble together the pitching for the Wild Card round, but it’ll be really tough if they advance.
Having Verlander would have make a big difference, as the Astros could have continued to use Javier in the bullpen. His presence there will be a big weapon for them in the Wild Card round, but they won’t have that the rest of the way. Several players are really going to have to step up if this team is going to make some serious noise in October.