LOS ANGELES -- It's no secret the Astros will need to significantly upgrade their bullpen this offseason. Relief pitching is their biggest concern, but they will have to piece together perhaps just one more game from their beleaguered bullpen to win the World Series.Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who has succeeded
LOS ANGELES -- It's no secret the Astros will need to significantly upgrade their bullpen this offseason. Relief pitching is their biggest concern, but they will have to piece together perhaps just one more game from their beleaguered bullpen to win the World Series.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who has succeeded by using starters Justin Verlander, Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers in relief in the postseason, threw six relief pitchers in Sunday's Game 5 win over the Dodgers, including starter Collin McHugh for two innings (he allowed three runs).
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Houston's bullpen has logged 53 innings in the postseason this year, allowing 35 earned runs and 47 hits, including 13 homers, for a 5.94 ERA. In the World Series, Astros relievers have allowed 16 runs, 16 hits, five homers and nine walks in 19 innings (7.58 ERA).
The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will start tonight's Game 6 with a chance to pitch the Astros to a World Series championship, and he has the ability to work deep into the game. When asked Monday how much his bullpen had left in the tank, Hinch said two games' worth, if needed.
"We realize that the bullpens have been beat up a little bit on both sides," Hinch said. "But that doesn't have an impact on decisions that are made or pitches that are made in the next game. And we are going to try to have a short memory on the guys that have been hit.
"We'll try to build off the momentum that Justin Verlander is going to create for us in Game 6, and then we're going to try to get to 27 outs with the lead. Who that is or how we get there, it's going to be played out [Tuesday] night in L.A. But we have confidence that we have enough left in the tank to finish this."
The Astros figure to have just about everybody available out of the bullpen, including possible Game 7 starter McCullers if he's needed for an inning. Dallas Keuchel threw 86 pitches in Game 5 on Sunday, but might be able to work an inning. Charlie Morton threw 76 pitches in 6 1/3 innings in Saturday's Game 4 and likely could be used for an inning.
Homer surge surprising Hinch
Hinch said Monday he was surprised at how many home runs are being hit in the postseason. The Astros' third-year manager credited good at-bats and tired arms that have pitched a month deeper into the season than they're typically used to doing for the long-ball frenzy.
"I think for both teams, we realize on the pitching side, both teams are at the very end of their rope when it comes to the season, when it comes to high-leverage situations, the intensity of their innings, and their mistakes are getting hit," Hinch said. "But the volume [of homers] is certainly record-setting and certainly the intensity of the moments that are ending in home runs is hard to fathom."
A record 14 different players have homered in the World Series, and the 22 total homers hit in the World Series and 101 in the postseason are also Major League records. In Game 5, the Astros became the third team in Major League history to hit five homers in a World Series game (1989 Athletics in Game 4 and 1928 Yankees in Game 4).
What's more, the Astros are the first team to have multiple games with at least four home runs in a single World Series, and they have hit 13 homers the Fall Classic, which ranks second for a single World Series behind the 2002 Giants (14).
Fisher has moment to remember
Astros 24-year-old outfielder Derek Fisher scored the biggest run in franchise history when he pinch-ran at second base in the 10th inning of Game 5 on Sunday night and scored from second base on a walk-off single by 23-year-old Alex Bregman.
Fisher has been on the Astros' playoff roster the entire postseason but had appeared in only three games -- all as a pinch-runner -- prior to Game 5. He was used as a pinch-runner in Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox, and in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees. He has yet to bat in the postseason.
"When you walk around the outfield before a series and you start to tell people, 'You're on the roster, you're not on the roster,' I told Derek Fisher he's on the roster for a reason," Hinch said. "I told him I didn't know if it would be his bat or defense or speed, but he was going to find a way to contribute. I didn't know it was going to be a game-winning run in one of the most epic World Series games in history. But he was just fast enough and exactly what we needed to make that moment possible."
Fisher credited the team's veteran players in making sure he was going to be ready to go when his named was called.
"Obviously, I hadn't gotten much time before that and I've been trying to do all I can to help guys out," he said. "I stayed ready."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.