Because so many of his relievers used to be starters, Astros manager Dusty Baker is still trying to determine how they might respond to back-to-back outings. That’s why Baker ruled out rookie Enoli Paredes for Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday after he threw 21 pitches in Game 1. Rookie Cristian Javier was likely out in Game 2 as well, after throwing 25 pitches.
Javier spent the majority of the regular season in the rotation and didn’t pitch in consecutive games, and Baker’s not sure he wants him to do it for the first time in October.
“And you saw earlier in the year, we had to back him off a little bit, because after two or three starts -- he relies on the fastball -- his fastball wasn’t the same,” Baker said. “We got some other guys out there that are primed and ready to go.”
Among the Astros’ seven relievers who threw the most innings -- Andre Scrubb, Taylor, Paredes, Ryan Pressly, Raley, James and Sneed -- only three worked back-to-back games more than twice. Pressly threw in consecutive games eight times, posting a 2.45 ERA. Paredes did it five times, posting a 2.25 ERA. And Taylor did it four times (0.00 ERA).
“The biggest challenge is recovery,” Taylor said. “I had never gone back to back in my career. I’ve always been a starter, and when I was a reliever, the Mets tended not to do back to back until you get to Triple-A. Coming over here and doing it for the first time, it’s just the recovery and how you maintain and how you handle yourself, and the routine you have after the game and before the game.”
Gurriel waiting to break out
When addressing Houston’s offensive struggles late in the regular season, Baker explained how the short regular season has hurt the club, stating that 200 plate appearances is about the time when most players begin heating up. Most of the Astros’ key hitters had between 180 and 230 plate appearances in the regular season, with Yuli Gurriel (230) leading the way.
Gurriel had a tough end to the regular season, slashing .137/.156/.178 with one home run -- his only extra-base hit -- in his final 21 games, despite hitting the ball hard regularly. Baker dropped him behind Carlos Correa into the seventh spot in the lineup for the first two games of the ALDS.
Considering the red-hot second half Gurriel had last year, there’s reason to believe the short season cost him more than any other Astros player. Gurriel hit .338 with 22 doubles, 26 homers and 72 RBIs in his final 73 games last year, but he didn’t have time to rally his numbers in 2020.
“I feel like it’s an important number, 200 plate appearances,” Gurriel said. “You start to feel better at the plate after you get that number of plate appearances. Hopefully, I can turn things around in the playoffs.”