The Houston Astros are in a tough situation with their pitching staff in the ALDS.
I wrote yesterday that the Astros needed to win Game Three in order to avoid being in a tough situation with their pitching staff. Unfortunately they lost 9-7 on Wednesday, and though they do have a 2-1 lead in this ALDS, things are not perfectly rosy for Houston fans.
Manager Dusty Baker had done a marvelous job in the first four games of this postseason, but that unraveled yesterday. It started with Jose Urquidy only completing 4.1 innings and giving up four solo home runs in the process. Through five playoff games, Framber Valdez is the only Astros starter to complete five innings, and that was bound to catch up with this team.
Enoli Paredes was unavailable after pitching three innings in the first two games of the ALDS, and with Urquidy exiting in the fifth and Blake Taylor struggling to complete the inning, Baker could no longer avoid the soft part of his bullpen. Josh James managed to throw a scoreless sixth inning despite some control issues, and I don’t disagree with Baker’s decision to bring him back out for the seventh. But he left him in too long.
James gave up a pair of singles to lead off the seventh and then hung a curveball, and suddenly the Astros three-run lead evaporated. Brooks Raley finished the inning but ran into his own problems in the eighth, allowing two more runs to come across. With the Houston bats silenced by a three-inning outing from closer Liam Hendriks, it was all over.
It overshadowed the Astros rallying from a 4-2 deficit with a five-run fifth inning. With the uncertainty surrounding the health of Zack Greinke, it also puts Baker in a difficult position regarding how to handle his pitching staff for the rest of this ALDS.
Baker did not announce who’ll start today’s Game Four, so that announcement should come later today. There’s a possibility that it will be Greinke, depending on how he’s doing this morning. But if he can’t go, who gets the ball?
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Cristian Javier would be an option, but he threw an inning of relief on Monday. He would not be likely to go deep into the game, which makes the bullpen situation even scarier. The other option would be Luis Garcia, who has only five major league appearances to his name. He’s more rested and may be up for a bigger workload, but there’s more risk involved.
As far as a potential Game Five goes, Javier could go if he’s not used today, or perhaps Baker could turn to Lance McCullers on short rest. None of these options are necessarily ideal, of course, but this is a thin pitching staff. If Greinke can’t make a go of it, Baker is going to have to piece something together for the rest of this ALDS.
For today, Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes and Ryan Pressly would certainly be available in relief, as would Cy Sneed (though using him would not be ideal). Taylor could be used if he’s really needed, but Raley and James probably need a rest. It will largely depend on who gets the ball, and we’re still waiting on that.
The bottom line in all of this is that the offense is going to have to win us a third game, as the pitching staff doesn’t seem to be in shape for it. The baseballs have been flying out of Dodger Stadium this week, and the Astros will simply have to slug their way to an ALDS win.