The Houston Astros find themselves in a good situation with six valuable starters in contention for the rotation. Lance McCullers Jr.’s return date hasn’t been announced but will most likely happen when the next homestand starts on Tuesday, after the off day on Monday.
Entering Saturday’s affair, Luis Garcia was 5-0 in his last five starts with 1.86 ERA, but after an effective first inning of 11 pitches (all fastballs), the right-hander struggled to get over the hump. Garcia tossed 4.1 innings, surrendering three earned runs on six hits and a walk. He fanned four batters, but a dropped third strike call and stolen bases didn’t benefit his start.
On Saturday, manager Dusty Baker announced that the idea of running a six-man rotation wasn’t out of the picture, as general manager James Click stated a similar thing last week. With a 20-game slot with no off days entering the schedule starting Tuesday, Baker has already started to rest some starters after a quick turn around from Boston with Myles Straw and Carlos Correa sitting.
Looking at the bigger picture, more available starters would mean less usage from the bullpen in relation to their recent success. With Garcia struggling on Saturday, there is no reason to fret on his ability; you can’t expect seven scoreless innings every start. The right-hander did leave his last start early due to illness, but that didn’t seem to affect him on Saturday.
With the Astros nearing a long period with no off days, what will they choose?
While under the reign of Baker, the Astros haven’t found themselves using six starters at one time, but with 20 games and no off days approaching, there is something else to take into effect. If they move to six starters, there will be one less arm out of the bullpen, which has been the weakest link of the team all season.
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Going from eight possible arms to seven is a big jump especially with Cristian Javier resting like a starter. We will most likely see a lot of optioning of arms and possibly even position players like Robel Garcia and/or Taylor Jones to add more leverage when pitchers are gassed. This happened when Tyler Ivey made his debut.
The move from five starters to six also relays in another pitcher for the day that would be an off day. For most starters, they are finding theirselves with five days in between starts as the off day comes into play. This builds a rhythm for most pitchers, but with injuries and roster moves, this could affect a pitcher like Zack Greinke.
The bullpen is lacking high-leverage arms, and by the numbers, Jake Odorizzi has been the worst starter. But adding the worst starter wouldn’t be the smartest move, if you’re looking to bolster a weakness. Garcia or Jose Urquidy would improve the bullpen at a higher rate than that of Odorizzi, even though the veteran could benefit from a smaller role.
There are pros and cons with the move to six starters, and if they do, the team possibly cuts two arm relievers in the process for the night. Not every start will be effective, so what happens when you’re down a relief arm and Javier pitched the night before?
The next 20 games could be a nice stretch for the Astros, as this heavy part of the schedule only has two of the five teams above .500.
The Astros dropped game two of their three-game set with the Minnesota Twins, 2-5. Back-to-back home runs from Kyle Tucker and Robel Garcia were all they had to show against Jose Berrios. They are back on the field on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. to close out the series with Framber Valdez off the rubber against right-hander Michael Pineda.