MAKING A PITCH

John Granato: Controversy aside, here is a look at how the Astros bullpen will shape up

Colin McHugh is one of the sure things in the pen. Collin McHugh/Facebook

I certainly don’t want to minimize the repercussions of the Roberto Osuna trade . We have had two straight days of non-stop calls on both sides of the issue. It’s the most calls we’ve had on any subject in quite a while. This article will not deal with the moral dilemma of trading for someone facing domestic abuse charges. The bottom line is that love it or hate it Osuna is an Astro. He’s a premier talent and now he’s Houston’s premier talent.

Make no mistake, it’s a heat check for the Astros. They’re finding out how much leeway they have with the fanbase. I’m sure they’re getting plenty of complaints but they’ll still fill the ballpark. I’m a huge fan of the team and not happy about the Osuna trade. I don’t want to root for a guy who’s facing a charge of assault against a woman but I’m not going to stop rooting for the team.

I loved last year’s Astros, maybe my favorite team ever. There was a youthful enthusiasm they brought every night that made sports fun again and unlike our other teams they played their best on the biggest stages and in the biggest moments.

Everyone did except the bullpen. It was an atrocity and despite the numbers this year that have the Astros bullpen as statistically one of baseball’s best, it needed a facelift, especially at the back end. The numbers against the better teams don’t lie.

They had to make a move. Maybe it’s not the move you wanted but it’s a move that had to be made. From a purely baseball standpoint it’s not a home run, it’s a grand slam. To get a 23-year old top-of-the-line closer with years left under your control for your 10th prospect and two guys that you didn’t want anyway is unheard of. If he didn’t have that baggage he wouldn’t have been on the trade market but he does and he’s here now.

Just think, this October you may not have to have your starters finish every big game. You may actually have a closer who can CLOSE and with the addition of Ryan Pressly you may be set up for another September and October run that could end in another parade.

Here’s what we’re looking as we head down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Sure things right now:

Hector Rondon

Collin McHugh

Tony Sipp

Yes that’s right, Tony Sipp. AJ is starting to put him into more high pressure situations and for good reason. He hasn’t given up an earned run in his last 10 outings and just one since May 7. That can be a deceiving stat for a reliever but it’s not for Sipp. He’s pitching well and deserves a shot to pitch when the game is on the line.

Rondon and McHugh are obviously on this list because of their numbers. McHugh should have been an all-star and Rondon has been solid if not great in the closer’s role. He’ll more than likely move into the setup role with Osuna’s arrival and a combination of Pressly, McHugh, Rondon and Osuna in the 7th, 8th and 9th will be formidable against any lineup.

Note: AJ Hinch has often said that he has no such slotted roles in his bullpen but that may have been more because he couldn’t count on anyone to fill those slots. With this new iteration of bullpen you may be seeing more slotted roles going forward.

Unknowns:

Roberto Osuna

Ryan Pressly

While we might not be excited about bringing Osuna into this locker room because of his issue, you have to be excited about his talent. Problem is he hasn’t pitched since May 6. That’s a long time ago. How long will it take for his command to return? Pinpoint accuracy is so important to every pitcher so it may take a while for him to get back to elite closer status.

With Pressly it’ll be important for AJ to get to know him quickly. How often can he use him? Is he comfortable coming in with runners on or does he pitch best starting an inning? What types of hitters does he pitch best against? He’s got a couple months to do it but there will be an adjustment period on both sides.

Where do we fit in?

Brad Peacock

Chris Devenski

Will Harris

Joe Smith

Smith is more than likely out. He hasn’t been here long enough to build up any good will and his performance hasn’t warranted any faith in his ability to perform on the big stage. No offense Joe. It’s a numbers thing.

But he’s not the only one that’ll have to go. In the postseason you’ll have four starters. Either McCullers or Morton will move to the pen depending on who’s hot. That’ll leave just six spots for true relievers. Right now you’d pick Rondon, McHugh, Sipp, Osuna, Pressly and…

Take your choice:

Brad Peacock?

Chris Devenski?

Will Harris?

They all have a special place in AJ’s heart. They all better pick up their game in these last two months if they want to have a place on the mound come October.






 

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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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