Astros: Division Series pitching staff will be different

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros will have to manage their pitching staff differently in the ALDS.

As it turned out, having five quality starting pitchers for a best-of-three series worked out pretty well for the Houston Astros. They won the series in just two games and got the bulk of their innings from four of those five starters, with the other (Lance McCullers) not even needed. But that won’t be the case in the next round.

Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy got the starts in the Wild Card sweep over the Twins, and Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier followed them with multi-inning relief appearances. Valdez, in particular, was excellent, throwing five scoreless frames to back Greinke. But Dusty Baker won’t have that luxury in the ALDS.

The best-of-five series will not have any off days in between games. That means if the series goes all five games, they’ll play five games in five days — Monday through Friday. Thus they’ll need five starting pitchers ready to go, unless they plan on having their Game One starter go on short rest in a potential Game Five. In this crazy season, I wouldn’t do that.

The Astros got only five outs in the Wild Card round from their traditional relievers — three from Ryan Pressly and two from Brooks Raley. Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Josh James weren’t used at all. But Baker is going to have to rely on them much more heavily moving forward, so we’re going to see what these young guys are made of.

Setting It Up

The good news is the team has a full four days of rest in between these two series, so they can line up their starting rotation however they like. I would expect Greinke, McCullers and Valdez to start the first three games in some order, with Urquidy and Javier to start the last two if needed.

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The 28-man roster is also going to look different, as the Astros only carried 12 pitchers in the Wild Card round. A seven-man bullpen isn’t going to work with there possibly being games in five straight days. A couple of the extra position players — likely Garrett Stubbs and Chas McCormick — will be left off the ALDS roster in favor of a couple of extra pitchers.

One notable omission from the Wild Card roster was Luis Garcia, who pitched to a 2.92 ERA in five major league appearances this year. Given his ability to throw multiple innings, I’d expect him to be added to the roster. Cionel Perez, Brandon Bielak and Brandon Bailey would also be candidates. The Astros could also drop one of their extra infielders — either Abraham Toro or Jack Mayfield — and carry 15 pitchers.

But Baker will be working to get as many innings out of the starters as possible, and then rely heavily on Pressly, Taylor, Scrubb, Paredes, Raley and James. The remaining pitchers — Cy Sneed and the extra additions — will be there if needed, hopefully only in mop-up situations.

Seeing starters pitch in relief was fun, but don’t expect it to continue. The Astros will need all five of theirs, so the team’s bullpen is really going to be tested. Hopefully the offense will take some of the pressure off the pitching staff and the team can close out their opponent without needing all five games.