By the numbers, the Astros actually had a decent, albeit unspectacular rotation in 2021. Don’t let this abysmal performance in the postseason dictate otherwise. Only six clubs had a lower ERA from their respective staff than Houston’s 3.78 mark. In fact, only three had more innings pitched from starters. But this is where the good news concludes for the day.
Alas, the postseason has not been kind to the Astros’ starters. A 20.25 ERA or something awfully similar in three ALCS games is something that will lead to an eventual ouster. Framber Valdez, Luis García, and Jose Urquidy have all failed in providing any sort of cushion for the bullpen, which was arguably this roster’s greatest weakness. Outside of Lance McCullers Jr., who is currently injured, the reliable depth that Houston relied upon has quickly evaporated. Of course, it doesn’t help matters when both Zack Greinke and Jake Odorizzi have generally been ineffective in recent months.
Options are limited, unfortunately, for the remainder of the series. Greinke gets the starting nod for Game 4 and it’s a question whether he can make it through an opposing lineup twice. Heck, I’ll be pleased with not seeing another 9-0 deficit before the third inning. Cristian Javier figures to be next in line within the pitching hierarchy, whether it’s the first inning following another freaking grand slam or the fourth inning of a tied game. The remainder of the bullpen has actually performed somewhat well in this series considering the circumstances, but remains a leaky ship. At this juncture, it is difficult to retain any semblance of confidence in the Valdez, García, and Urquidy trio.
Honestly, I don’t have any useful insight to provide today. This rotation has fallen apart at the most inopportune time. It’s calling card all season long was that the floor was reasonably high even with a capped ceiling. Depth wasn’t bountiful, but just enough to cover some innings. A combined 5 1/3 innings from their starters in the first three games put the Astros firmly behind the figurative eight-ball. While the offense has struggled, it is also difficult to consistently face a tremendous deficit by the third inning in back-to-back games. Sometimes you just don’t have enough pitching and that is exactly the cold reality Houston is facing in Game 4.