Astros’ bullpen has been dropping the ball in the postseason

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The Astros took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning of ALCS Game 4 on Tuesday night, appearing to be on their way to a 3-1 series lead over the Yankees. Instead, they ended up losing 6-4 and the series is even at two games apiece.

The bullpen gave up five of the six runs in the seventh and eighth innings, continuing a trend of unreliable pitching this postseason. Here’s a look at each individual pitching performance for Astros relievers since the start of the ALDS.

Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
Chris Devenski 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Will Harris 2/3 2 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Musgrove 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Chris Devenski 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
Luke Gregerson 1 1 0 0 0 2 0
Ken Giles 1 2 1 1 0 1 0
Francisco Liriano 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Lance McCullers 3 3 2 2 2 4 0
Chris Devenski 0 3 3 3 0 0 0
Joe Musgrove 1 1 1 1 0 0 1
Luke Gregerson 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Justin Verlander 2 2/3 1 1 1 2 0 1
Ken Giles 2 1 1 1 0 1 1
Chris Devenski 1/3 0 0 0 1 0 0
Ken Giles 1 2/3 1 1 1 1 4 1
Will Harris 1/3 1 1 1 0 0 1
Collin McHugh 4 0 0 0 1 3 0
Chris Devenski 1/3 1 1 1 1 0 0
Joe Musgrove 2/3 2 2 2 0 0 0
Ken Giles 1/3 3 2 2 1 0 0
Luke Gregerson 2/3 0 0 0 1 0 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 25 17 17 10 20 6

For those keeping score at home, that’s a 6.20 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 3.65 BB/9, 2.19 HR/9, and an even two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s not that the Astros’ bullpen isn’t talented. Though the club posted only the 10th-best ERA (4.27) in the American League during the regular season at 4.27, the staff was second-best in strikeout rate (28.6%) and K-BB% (19.4%). By ERA retrodictors, the bullpen actually pitched much better than ERA indicated. xFIP, for example, put the Yankees’ bullpen at 3.69, nearly three-fifths of a full run better.

The back of the bullpen is particularly hard to handle, as Ken Giles (2.30), Chris Devenski (2.68), Will Harris (2.98), and Joe Musgrove (1.44) each posted superb ERA’s. The bullpen has the ability to be dominant, but they have not been up to the task thus far. It has exposed the Astros, who have looked strong otherwise in the playoffs after winning 101 games in the regular season. If the ‘pen doesn’t shape up quickly, the Astros may miss their chance to get to the World Series for the first time since 2005.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.