WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When the final out of the World Series was recorded last year, it was starter-turned-reliever Charlie Morton -- and not closer Ken Giles -- who was getting the final out and being mobbed by his Astros teammates in the middle of the diamond.
Giles, who saved 34 of 38 games in the regular season and struck out 83 in 62 2/3 innings, faltered in the playoffs, particularly in the World Series, and didn't pitch in the Fall Classic after giving up three runs and two hits without recording an out in Game 4. In seven playoff appearances last year, Giles gave up 10 runs and 12 hits in 7 2/3 innings.
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The right-hander known as "100 Miles Giles" for his electric fastball, which offsets a sharp slider, hit the weight room this offseason and got stronger to be able to endure another long season. Just think, the Astros went from Valentine's Day until one day past Halloween last year.
"It was a long season for me," Giles said. "It's still no excuse. You have to perform when the time is right, and I'm ready to go out there and prove myself."
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Giles, 27, posted a 2.30 ERA and struck out 11.92 batters per nine innings last year and walked 3.02 per nine in the regular season. His 34 saves were the most by an Astro since Jose Valverde had 44 in 2008.
In the playoffs, Giles allowed at least one run in six of his seven outings. He saved Game 4 of the American League Division Series against Boston despite allowing a homer in two innings and saved Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees despite allowing a homer, but he endured a blown save in Game 4 of the ALCS.
In the World Series, he was touched for two runs and two hits in 1 2/3 innings in Game 2, which the Astros rallied to win, before taking the loss in Game 4. With Giles in mothballs, manager A.J. Hinch turned to Chris Devenski in the ninth inning of Game 5 (he blew a three-run lead), and Morton threw the final four innings of Game 7 of the World Series.
Hinch said he could sense Giles was fatigued in the playoffs because hitters were responding to his pitches differently.
"There was a little bit of a grind for him, but again, it wasn't all failure," he said. "Confidence breeds confidence and being able to bounce back in that role in the back of a bullpen after some tough outings is one of his biggest traits."
Giles insists he isn't dwelling on his performance in the postseason.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "We win as a team. We lose as a team. All that matters is we came up top. Guys stepped up. We kept the hot hand in there. I don't blame them. Whatever is working out there, you have to keep rolling and don't break the rhythm. It doesn't matter to me."
Giles is hoping more muscle means more stamina to allow him to pitch effectively deep into October. He says he's built to last this year.
"You know what? I'm not perfect," he said. "I'm a perfectionist and I want to be perfect all the time and I want to step up when I'm needed to be stepped up. I did a lot of that. I just didn't finish it. I want to finish it this year."