Having no off-days during a seven-game American League Championship Series can present obstacles for a pitching staff. As Astros manager Dusty Baker looked over his roster on Wednesday night to determine his pitching plans for Thursday's Game 5 at Petco Park, all he saw was 80, 60 or even fewer games of service time listed beside each of his options.
“Well, I mean it’s either one rookie or another one, you know what I mean?” Baker said.
And for the first 6 2/3 innings on Thursday, it was, indeed, one rookie after the next. The Astros pieced together a solid bullpen game to force Game 6 on Friday with a 4-3 victory over the Rays. Houston tied a record for the most rookie pitchers (five) used in a single postseason game. The Cardinals used five in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I don’t have the words to really explain it,” closer Ryan Pressly said of the team's young arms. “All I know is that they’re fearless, and I’m so proud of them. … I can’t really explain how I’m feeling and how to describe how good and how composed they’ve kept themselves throughout this entire series.”
How did the rookies piece it together?
Garcia hadn’t pitched above Class A prior to this year, and he wasn’t even in big league camp with the Astros, but he was one of 10 rookie pitchers Houston had to press into action because of injuries to its pitching staff. Garcia showed flashes of greatness in five appearances (one start) during the regular season, with a 2.92 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over 12 1/3 innings.
On Thursday, Garcia walked two and plunked a batter to load the bases with two outs. The hot-hitting Mike Zunino stepped up to the plate, but three straight heaters were enough to get him to fly out to right to end the frame.
“Yeah, things got a little bit complicated in that second inning,” Garcia said. “Thank God that I was able to stay focused and stay focused on the job at hand and was able to get out of it.”
Final line: Two innings, no hits, no runs, two walks, one strikeout
Availability for Game 6: It’s probably unlikely that Garcia would be used again on Friday after he threw 37 pitches on Thursday.
Taylor replaced Garcia in the third and gave up a homer to a struggling Brandon Lowe -- the first batter he saw. But the 25-year-old was able to settle in, and he set down the scorching-hot Randy Arozarena looking on a 95.8 mph heater before forcing Austin Meadows to ground out to first.
Final line: Two-thirds of an inning, one hit, one run, one strikeout, one homer
Availability for Game 6: Taylor threw 13 pitches in Game 1 on Sunday, 16 pitches in Game 3 on Tuesday and 11 pitches in Game 5. Because his pitch count is low, he could be an option should the Astros need him on Friday.
Paredes was perfect through his first four postseason outings before the Rays tagged him for three runs in one-third of an inning in Game 3. This time he worked around three walks in 1 2/3 innings to fan three batters, allowing one run, on a solo homer to Arozarena.
Final line: 1 2/3 innings, one hit, one run, three walks, three strikeouts, one homer
Availability for Game 6: Only once in his short career has Parades thrown more than 37 pitches in a game (38 on Aug. 7). He threw 12 each in Games 1 and 3, so 37 may be enough to keep him down for Friday’s matchup.
Paredes left one on with one out for Scrubb, who struck out a batter before giving up a single to Ji-Man Choi. With two runners on, he escaped the jam by getting Manuel Margot to ground out on his curveball. Scrubb returned in the sixth to get two outs before a Zunino single prompted Baker to turn to his final rookie of the night.
Final line: 1 1/3 innings, two hits, no runs, two strikeouts
Availability for Game 6: Scrubb threw 24 pitches, more than he’s thrown all postseason, but because he hasn’t been overused thus far, he could certainly be an option.
Raley struck out the first batter he faced to end the top of the sixth and retired the next two batters he faced in the seventh before the rookie show came to an end.
Final line: One inning, no hits, no runs, two strikeouts
Availability for Game 6: With Game 6 an all-hands-on-deck game, the 18 pitches Raley threw would not be enough to make him unavailable.
“We got a bunch of rookies that are playing like veterans,” Baker said. “I was proud of all those guys.”