Astros: Predicting playoff rotation with Lance McCullers back in the fold

Make no mistake, the Houston Astros are built to win in October. Look for these three to four pitchers to lead the Astros to another Fall Classic appearance.

The Houston Astros are enjoying the ride to the playoffs with the best record in the American League. They are three games up of the Yankees for the No. 1 spot in the AL. Meanwhile, even with the Mariners playing hot, the Astros are still up 11 games over their AL West rivals for first place in the division.

The last month and a half will be about clinching the bye and home turf for the playoffs while staying healthy. They just lost Michael Brantley for the season but did just gain a crucial starting pitcher in Lance McCullers Jr.

Houston’s six-man rotation is great for the regular season, but in the playoffs, manager Dusty Baker will have some decisions ahead on who to put in their 3-4 man playoff rotation. It’s nice problem to have if you’re the Astros.

The Astros’ current rotation consists of eternal Ace Justin Verlander, back-from-the-dead McCullers, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Cristian Javier, who threw a large part of a no-hitter. Those are six quality starters that would start for nearly any other team in the MLB.

Each of them, except for Javier, has started every game they appeared in. McCullers will have to prove he can stay healthy to get a spot in the playoff rotation, but he started his comeback tour off right. In his first start, he went 6 innings allowing no runs, struck out 5, and got a win.

Predicting Astros playoff rotation with Lance McCullers Jr. back

1. Justin Verlander: To no one’s surprise, Verlander will be leading the way for the Astros. In his age-39 season, he is pitching like he was a decade ago. I know he just had Tommy John surgery but didn’t anyone make sure they didn’t put a robotic arm on him? Or is he not a vampire? Anyways, he has thrown 143 innings of 1.95 ERA ball with 138 strikeouts to only 25 walks. A leading contender for the AL Cy Young is Verlander.

2. Framber Valdez: Valdez has been pitching really well for the Astros. He has thrown the second-most innings for the team at 142. In that time, he’s been excellent with a 2.73 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 128 strikeouts, and 49 walks. He throws from the left side which is good for a playoff rotation. The Astros will force their opponents to change their regular lineup with Valdez on the mound.

3. Lance McCullers Jr.: Lance just made his return from injury, but if he’s healthy, the team didn’t pay him $85 million to pitch out of the bullpen during the throws of October. Lance McCullers has pitched in 5 different playoff runs. He’s started nine of the 16 games he pitched in during that time. He threw 57.1 innings and struck out 62 with 10 walks and an ERA of 2.83. That’s good for a No.3 starter in the playoffs.

4. Jose Urquidy: The Astros might just stick to a three-man rotation, but if they want a fourth, it’s Urquidy. He’s having a strong season for them. In his 22 starts, he has a 3.69 ERA, 98 strikeouts, 26 walks, and has thrown 127 innings. In the playoffs, you want guys who don’t walk a lot of batters like in Urquidy. Plus, since 2019, he has shown 33.1 innings in the playoffs over 11 games and six starts. He struck out 32 and walked 10 with a 4.05 ERA.

Look for Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia to pitch out of the bullpen.

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