Having salvaged Game 4, the Houston Astros need to win three more games to advance. They can only do this by winning all three games, and they can only win one game at a time.
Among baseball fans, there’s a desperate and flawed logic to “empty the kitchen sink” or “pull out all the stops” to win in a must-win situation. In addition, fan bases across from here to Atlanta, from Tampa to Los Angeles, seem to have forgotten that there’s no days off in the championship.
Are the odds better for the Astros if they pitch Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr., and Jose Urquidy on short rest, or are the odds better if they pitch Luis Garcia, and then Framber and Lance on full rest? Unquestionably, the latter.
This isn’t 1985 when pitchers threw 320 IP, nobody threw harder than 95, and short rest was a regular thing. But for rare exceptions, throwing guys on short rest is usually a bad decision.
Who is Luis Garcia? He just might be our 2020 version of Jose Urquidy. Remember 2019, when we played the Rays? Up 2-1, Hinch decided to start Justin Verlander instead of Urquidy. What resulted were 4 earned runs and 10 baserunners in 3.2 innings. That short-rest performance was from our horse, not from a guy like Framber who’s been good for all of three months. And that move did not require short-rest starts from an injury-prone Lance and Urquidy himself, who’s pitched a grand total of 43 IP this season, all on full rest, and has thrown more than 90 pitches exactly once.
Garcia has pitched a total of five games this season, and made one start. In it, he threw five nearly perfect innings against Oakland, allowing just one hit and walking two. He also came in for Lance in the first inning at Anaheim, allowing one hit and one run over 4.1 innings.
The argument, however, is not just whether Garcia is better than short-rest Framber. Both are unknown scenarios. The argument is also how much the decision to burn Framber in Game 5 will decrease our chances to win Games 6 & 7.
We don’t need Garcia to be Brandon Backe. We just need him to get us through 3 or 4 innings. Then turn things over to a bullpen that is much better rested than the Rays’ bullpen: Brooks Raley, Blake Taylor, Josh James, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb. You can extend those guys because then in Game 6 you have a fully-rested Framber who can give you 6 or 7 innings.
Hinch blew Game 4 of the 2019 ALDS by starting JV, but at least there was a day off, which meant he had Cole on full rest for Game 5. There’s no such luxury here. Start Luis Garcia today, as if our season depended on it!