NEW YORK -- There is a good reason the Astros are going to the World Series for the second consecutive year: Their bullpen has been almost unstoppable throughout the postseason.
Take Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, which led the Astros to their second consecutive pennant. Other than Héctor Neris’ hiccup -- a solo home run he gave up to Harrison Bader in the sixth inning -- Yankees hitters had no luck against Houston’s relievers for most of the ALCS. The relievers are significantly responsible for the Astros being undefeated in seven postseason games.
Closer Ryan Pressly, who saved three games in the ALCS, recorded the last out by getting Aaron Judge to ground out.
Here are some numbers to admire: In seven postseason games, Astros relievers have compiled an 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 42 Ks in 33 innings pitched. Opponents had a slash line of .127/.207/.227. The relievers are showing they can handle themselves on a big stage.
“I tell you what: We have a lot of great facets on our team,” said Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. “The bullpen is the first group of guys that get the blame and the last to get the praise. [But] they are unbelievable.
“What they have been able to do in this postseason -- to win that third game in Seattle [in the ALDS], what they were able to do today -- they are truly, truly an amazing group of guys. They are so talented. They deserve a lot of credit for their success. Without them, we are half the team.”
Right-hander Ryne Stanek, a key member of the bullpen, is not surprised that the Mariners and Yankees had problems in the batter’s box against Houston. The success of the bullpen started in Spring Training.
“You have to start with the mindset,” Stanek said. “So many people are focused on executing, doing their job and not concerning themselves with anything else. It’s really a true team effort in the bullpen. Everybody wants the ball. Everybody wants to save everybody’s runs. It’s a very talented group, very Major League tough. They have been through a lot.”
Right-hander Rafael Montero has been an unsung hero for Houston. He struggled in the Major Leagues for seven years before manager Dusty Baker gave him a chance to prove himself in the bullpen. It paid off for Montero, who appeared in 71 games with a 2.37 ERA during the regular season.
“I feel really proud. I always thank God for giving me the opportunity to be part of this bullpen,” Montero said through interpreter Jenloy Herrera. “I have to thank Dusty Baker for giving me the opportunity and trusting me to throw that eighth inning.”
Now the Astros will play the Phillies in the World Series, starting Friday night in Houston. Neris will be playing against the only team he knew before signing with Houston last winter. Neris pitched for the Phillies from 2014-21.
“It’s very emotional for myself,” Neris said. “I was supposed to be on the other side, but now I’m comfortable with the Astros. This is my first year with this team. I’m waiting for the championship.”