PLAYOFF POINTS

Barry Laminack predicts the Astros 25-man roster/Round 1 preview

Barry Laminack predicts the Astros 25-man roster/Round 1 preview
Tony Kemp might be the odd man out if the Astros go with fewer hitters. Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the playoffs right around the corner I figured we could take a look at the projected Astros’ 25 man roster for the teams first round matchup vs the Cleveland Indians.

First thing we have to figure out is if A.J. Hinch goes with 12 bats or 13. For weeks I’ve thought he’d go with 12 bats, but when I put them on paper, seeing that either Kemp or Marisnick could be left off, combined with the fact that the pitching staff is so deep and talented, I now think he’ll carry 13 bats.

The other, and perhaps the most important reason I think they will carry 13 bats is the health of George Springer. He’s not 100%, so having both Marisneck and Kemp as back-ups makes sense.

Here are the fielders I project will make the cut for round 1:

STARTERS

C: Brian McCann

1B: Yuli Gurriel

2B: Jose Altuve

3B: Alex Bregman

SS: Carlos Correa

LF: Marwin Gonzalez

CF: George Springer

RF: Josh Reddick

DH: Evan Gattis
 

BENCH

Martin Maldonado(C), Tyler White (1B/DH), Jake Marisnick (OF), Tony Kemp (OF/2B)

For the sake of argument, let's say he decides to only carry 12 bats. Who does Hinch leave off, Kemp or Marisnick?

Both can provide speed off the bench to steal you a bag late in a game, but Marisneck’s value as a late game defensive replacement is undeniable. So if they do go with 12 bats, I think Kemp is the odd man out.

Now to the pitching staff.

STARTERS

Justin Verlander

Gerrit Cole

Charlie Morton

Dallas Keuchel

BULLPEN

(MR = Middle Relief, LS = Lefty Specialist, SU = Setup Man, CL = Closer)

MR: Ryan Pressly, Colin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Joe Smith, Josh James

LS: Tony Sipp

SU: Hector Rondon

CL: Roberto Osuna

Much like the hitters, most of the names on this list are no-brainers.

One great sign for this team was Lance McCullers getting in a productive inning of work (his first work since going on the DL in early August), so expect to see him pitch in at least two more games before the playoffs get here.

I think the final 2 spots on this team come down to choosing between Will Harris, Josh James, Brad Peacock, Joe Smith,  and Framber Valdez.

Will Harris just doesn’t have it this year, at least not enough to warrant a playoff spot, and for as good as Framber Valdez has looked this year, his 21 walks in 34.2 innings is going to keep him out of the playoffs.

I think Josh James has shown enough to warrant his addition to the roster. He’s proven that pressure isn’t an issue (look at his outing in Boston) and he’s got electric stuff that can get you a strikeout when needed, but can also go for a while if you find yourself in an extra innings marathon (and I think this could be very likely in at least 1 of the 5 games).

So this was really a choice between Brad Peacock and Joe Smith, and to be honest, you could make a case for both.

Peacock is giving up 1.57 HR/9 and averaging 13/4 Ks per 9 innings, while Smith is giving up 1.22 HR/9 and fanning 9.3 per 9 inning. Smith has shown better control with a .963 WHIP to Peacocks 1.115.

Those numbers are pretty darn good for both guys, so you really can’t go wrong here. I think it comes down to performance in the postseason.

Peacock has a 5.11 ERA (giving up 7 earned runs in 12 postseason inning - all last year).

Smith has pitched in a total of 5 innings of relief in the playoffs (spread over 3 years - 2013, 2014 and 2017) and has yet to give up a run (that included 4 appearances against the Yankees last year in the ALDS).

So because of his postseason success I went with Smith, but if the final playoff spot on your pitching roster is between Joe Smith and Brad Peacock, it’s safe to say your pitching staff is pretty darn good.

SERIES PREDICTION

The Astros are loaded with talent and ready to make another deep playoff run. The Cleveland Indians are no slouch of a team and can match the Astros starter for starter and at bat for at bat. The real difference between these two clubs is the bullpen and that is advantage Astros.

The Astros win this series, but it’ll take all five games.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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