|Fernando Nieve||Orlando Hernandez|
|0 - 0, 5.40||1 - 1, 5.59|
Astros come in this afternoon leading the majors in team shutouts with three, and third in the NL with a 3.38 starter's ERA. Both their starters and the team overall are second in the league in groundball to flyouts, although Pettitte's misadventures in the longball department knock us towards the middle of the pack in taters allowed.
Speaking of middle of the pack, that's precisely where our bullpen is located. A 4.32 ERA and a .433 SLG allowed will do that to you, even if you do have the fewest bullpen walks allowed in the league.
I bring up the starter/'pen splits 'cause that's precisely how we're going to evaluate Fernando's start today: how well did he keep things from getting into the bullpen, which not only hasn't been so great so far, but may be facing a taxing workload over the next six weeks?
The Astros are hopeful that Nieve can get through five, and won't push him much past that, even if he's mowed 'en down.
Just to remind, Fernando was 4- 3 with a 2.65 last year at Corpus Christi, with 96 strikeouts to 29 walks. He went 1 - 1 with a 4.58 to win the roster spot in ST, with 14 strikeouts and 9 walks. He had a 0.85 ground ball to flyout in ST, but has a 3.00 right now.
But these are just readily-available numbers that I throw out. I have no idea what we're gonna get, although I can say that the worst case scenario flashing through my head this afternoon looks a lot like the exhibition against KC where he had not all that much, and Nieve was basically saved from an atrocious outing by his defense.
On the other hand, you have to look back no further than last night to see that baseball is a wonderful game, and can pleasantly surprise you when you least expect it.