The Houston Astros enter Game 2 of the American League Division Series looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Seattle Mariners. Framber Valdez is the starter for Houston going up against Luis Castillo.
Valdez had a terrific year featuring an all-star appearance as well as leading the American League in innings pitched going over 200 innings for the first time in his career. He also set the major league record for consecutive quality starts in a single season with 25.
Despite his regular season success, Astros fans have reason to be weary as his postseason performances last year were less than stellar overall.
Astros manager Dusty Baker should be ready to have a quick hook for Framber Valdez
While Justin Verlander earned the leash he got in Game 1 of the ALDS, many other pitchers in a critical playoff game would have gotten pulled earlier than the fourth if they were struggling the way Verlander was.
With the Astros bullpen full of players who can give multiple quality innings, they should not be shy to go to Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu or Hunter Brown should it look like Valdez just doesn’t have it.
Bullpen roles should also be thrown out the window as the Astros have so many late inning options that if a situation arises early where the Astros need a strikeout, Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly should be available anywhere in the game based on matchups.
Obviously the hope is that Valdez does what he did in the regular season which is go deep providing a quality start. But if he gives up a run or two in the first inning and then gets into trouble in the second such as a first and third nobody out or bases loaded one out, the Astros should consider going to Stanek, Javier, Montero, Abreu, Neris, Pressly or Brown who all have swing and miss stuff as well as experience coming out of the bullpen in the middle of an inning.
They then could turn to Jose Urquidy or Luis Garcia to give them two to three quality innings each.
Given how long that list of pitchers is they obviously have more than enough bullpen depth to cover 27 outs.
Runs will be at a premium against Luis Castillo and the Astros can’t afford any big innings from the Mariners if they want a shot to win. The hope is Valdez goes long.
But if not the Astros should not be afraid to deploy their bullpen that can give length and has a lot of swing and miss pitches in their repertoire to come in the middle of an inning and get out of a jam.
The Astros have the luxury of a day off tomorrow as well giving them the chance to rest their bullpen before game three in Seattle. It should be all hands should be on deck as a 2-0 series lead with Lance McCullers Jr. going up against George Kirby.
Game 2 is today at 2:37 p.m. CT.