Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller was one of the best starters in the National League this season, posting a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts while striking out 169 batters in 173 innings and holding opponents to a .234 batting average.
And yet the Cardinals just announced that he’ll spend the entire NLDS in the bullpen, with St. Louis choosing Lance Lynn for Game 2, Joe Kelly for Game 3 and Michael Wacha for Game 4.
Miller is definitely one of the Cardinals’ top four starters and has the raw stuff to dominate any lineup, but he showed some signs of wearing down in September and his 5.32 ERA in four regular season starts against the Pirates no doubt played a part in manager Mike Matheny’s decision. Miller also has some bullpen experience, so Matheny could turn to him for high-leverage spots in the late innings with demoted closer Edward Mujica no longer reliable. Still, not giving him an NLDS start is definitely a bold/questionable move.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.