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Game 11 Preview. August 5th 2020. Astros @ Diamondbacks

McCullers makes his third start since Tommy John

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Astros won 8-2 last night in the series opener in Arizona. George Springer’s double and sac fly accounted for three RBI. Carlos Correa and... YAY... Jose Altuve, added an RBI each with solo homers.

With 2019 starter Gerrit Cole gone, and with Justin Verlander and Jose Urquiddy injured, much of the success of the Astros in 2020 rests on the successful return of tonight’s starter, Lance McCullers, from his late 2018 Tommy John surgery.

So far the early returns are not encouraging. In two starts and 10 innings he has allowed six earned runs, 11 hits and 7 walks. However, I am cautiously optimistic that his problems thus far are mainly just shaking off rust, and not lingering arm maladies. His fastball velocity in 2020 is 93.5 mph. That’s striking distance of his 2018 velo, 94.2 mph.

How bout that Cristian Javier. ERA 1.42 in 12.2 innings pitched. Watching last night’s game though I had the feeling Javier was a bit lucky. After all, he only had two K’s in six innings pitched, and a few batted balls seemed to be aimed right at fielders.

But I’m looking at statcast and I’m finding some rather amazing numbers. His exit velocity is 85.9 mph, in the top 91 percentile of MLB. His xWOBA of .272 is in the top 92 %, and his hard hit % is 24.2, in the top 93 % of the league.

Sure, there’s going to be some regression. His WOBA is .193 compared to xWOBA .272. And his ERA is 1.42, compared to xERA of 2.82. But if he really can continue to pitch with an ERA under three, then the little heralded Christian Javier appears to us Astros fans during this time of PITCHING CRISIS as a gift from heaven.

Another rookie got his debut on the mound last night, Mexican Humberto Castellanos. Damn, he looked good too, getting an easy 1, 2, 3, inning to close out the game.

As we all know by now, ten of the eleven relief pitchers for the Astros currently are rookies. Seven of those have debuted this year, and one hasn’t made his first big league appearance. (Carlos Sanabria) Five of these relievers (not including Javier, who has also appeared in relief) are Latin American. Only one current reliever was drafted by the Astros in the amateur draft, Brandon Bielak. In fact, the only other Astros draftees on the current active staff are Lance McCullers and Josh James, a 34th rounder.

Scouting and signing Latin American pitchers appears to be a strong suit for the Astros organization.

The D-Backs send Robbie Ray to face McCullers tonight. Like so many players in MLB this year, he appears to be rusty, sporting an 8.64 ERA in two starts and only 8.1 innings pitched. In his career he has started 148 games with a career ERA of 4.16.

Game time is 8:10 CDT.

Did you see this catch by Correa last night?