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MLB Playoff 2015: ALDS Game 2 Pitching Matchup: Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto

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Both teams go with midseason acquisitions who are looking to prove their worth with a playoff victory.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Starters

Houston - LHP Scott Kazmir: 7-11, 3.10 ERA (3.98 FIP), 183.0 innings, 155 SO, 59 BB, 12.6 K-BB%

This situation is exactly why the Astros dealt for Kazmir earlier this season: Houston has the chance to go up 2-0 with Dallas Keuchel at home looming in Game 3. However, the decision by the Astros to go with Kazmir here is mildly surprising, especially with Lance McCullers fully rested. Furthermore, Kazmir has not been good of late to say the least.

After allowing just three earned runs in his first 26 innings with Houston -- a 1.04 ERA -- Kazmir has posted a 5.89 ERA over his last nine starts.

Working in Kazmir's favor, however, are his numbers against Kansas City this season. He's thrown well against the Royals, and neutralizes three key left-handed bats in the KC lineup: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon.

Kazmir also switches Kendrys Morales to the right side after Morales went yard twice from the left side in Game 1. Morales in his career has a 122 wRC+ from the left side compared to a league-average 100 mark batting right-handed. Throw in switch-hitter Ben Zobrist as well, who has a career 128 wRC+ from the left side while having a 115 mark from the right. The split is much bigger (156 wRC+ vs. right, 107 vs. left) for Zobrist in 2015.

And although it's not a successful track record, Kazmir has made seven postseason starts, which is seven more than the rest of the Astros' ALDS roster had coming into these playoffs.

Postseason experience: 8 games (7 starts), 1-2, 5.20 ERA, 36.1 innings, 26 SO, 26 BB. Kazmir has not pitched in the playoffs since 2009.

Kazmir vs. Kansas City in 2015: 3 starts: 1-1, 2.10 ERA, 21.1 innings, 14 SO, 3 BB

Kazmir's last outing: Sept. 30 at Seattle: 4.1 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 3 SO, 2 BB (ND). Kazmir will be pitching on eight days rest. He has pitched on eight days and nine days rest one time each this season.

Kansas City - Johnny Cueto: 11-13, 3.44 ERA (3.53 FIP), 212 innings, 176 SO, 46 BB, 15.0 K-BB%

Akin to Houston's feeling with Kazmir, Cueto has not been what the Royals expected him to be when dealing prospects to Cincinnati for him. The veteran righty left Cincy with a 2.62 ERA in 19 starts and has since posted a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the Royals. His strikeouts have dropped -- more than two per nine innings. He's allowing almost five more hits per nine innings and surrendering the long ball more frequently.

Cueto finished September with a 6.11 ERA in 35.1 innings, but did throw five innings of one-run ball on Oct. 4 at Minnesota.

However, KC has to go with Cueto here. Edinson Volquez, who is slated to get the ball in Game 3, had a better season than Cueto in Kansas City, but the upside with Cueto is much greater. He did, after all, finish second in Cy Young voting in the National League a year ago.

For those who believe that Yordano Ventura received the call in Game 1 "over" Cueto, you don't have to look much further than the last time each pitcher threw. Ventura pitched last in the regular season on Oct. 3 while Cueto went on the 4th, putting both on regular rest in Game 1 and Game 2.

Postseason experience: 3 starts: 0-2, 5.19 ERA, 8.2 innings, 3 SO, 2 BB (all three starts with CIN)

Cueto vs. Houston in 2015: Has not faced the Astros this season.

Cueto's last outing: Oct. 4 at Minnesota: 5 innings, 6 hits, 1 run (earned), 4 SO, 4 BB (win). Cueto will be pitching on regular rest.

Game 3 probable starters: Dallas Keuchel (HOU) vs. Edinson Volquez (KC)

The Bullpens

Houston

RHP Josh Fields

2015 season: 3.55 ERA, 50.2 innings, 67 SO, 19 BB. Last worked: Sept. 30 at SEA: 1.1 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 SO

RHP Luke Gregerson (closer)

2015 season: 3.10 ERA, 61 innings, 31 saves, 59 SO, 10 BB. Last worked: Game 1 at KC (Thurs.): 1.0 inning, 0 runs, 2 SO (save). Has pitched twice in last three days.

RHP Will Harris

2015 season: 1.90 ERA, 71 innings, 68 SO, 22 BB. Last worked: Game 1 at KC (Thurs.): 0.2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs. Has pitched twice in last three days.

RHP Pat Neshek

2015 season: 3.62 ERA, 54.2 innings, 51 SO, 12 BB. Last worked: Oct. 4 at ARI: 1. inning, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 SO

LHP Oliver Perez

2015 season: 4.17 ERA, 41.0 innings, 51 SO, 15 BB. Last worked: Game 1 at KC (Thurs.): 0.1 innings, 0 runs

LHP Tony Sipp

2015 season: 1.99 ERA, 54.1 innings, 62 SO, 15 BB. Last worked: Game 1 at KC (Thurs.): 1.0 inning, 0 runs. Has pitched twice in last three days.

Available to start or for relief:

RHP Mike Fiers: 3.69 ERA, 180.1 innings, 180 SO, 64 BB. Last worked: Sept. 29 at SEA (start): 5.2 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 BB, 7 SO

RHP Lance McCullers: 3.22 ERA, 125.2 innings, 129 SO, 43 BB. Last worked: Oct. 4 at ARI (start): 5 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 6 SO, 2 BB.

Kansas City

RHP Luke Hochevar

2015 season: 3.73 ERA, 50.2 innings, 49 SO, 16 BB. Last worked: Game 1 vs. HOU (Thurs.): 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs

LHP Franklin Morales

2015 season: 3.18 ERA, 62.1 innings, 41 SO, 14 BB. Last worked: Oct. 4 at MIN: 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs

RHP Ryan Madson

2015 season: 2.13 ERA, 63.1 innings, 58 SO, 14 BB. Last worked: Game 1 vs. HOU (Thurs.): 1.0 inning, 2 hits, 1 un (earned), 3 SO

RHP Kelvin Herrera

2015 season: 2.71 ERA, 69.2 innings, 64 SO, 26 BB. Last worked: Game 1 vs. HOU (Thurs.): 1.0 inning, 1 hits, 0 runs, 2 SO

RHP Wade Davis (closer)

2015 season: 0.94 ERA, 67.1 innings, 78 SO, 20 BB. Last worked: Oct. 3 at MIN: 0.2 innings, 0 runs, 2 SO

Available to start or for relief

RHP Kris Medlen

2015 season: 4.01 ERA, 58.1 innings, 40 SO, 18 BB. Last worked: Oct. 1 at CHW (start): 6.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 4 SO, 3 BB

LHP Danny Duffy

2015 season: 4.08 ERA, 136.2 innings, 102 SO, 53 BB. Last worked: Oct. 3 at MIN: 1.0 inning, 0 runs, 2 SO

RHP Chris Young

2015 season: 3.06 ERA, 123.1 innings, 83 SO, 43 BB. Last worked: Game 1 vs. HOU (Thurs.): 4.0 innings, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 7 SO, 2 BB