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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.

Collin McHugh headed to injured list with elbow discomfort

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Astros starter Collin McHugh will be placed on the 10-day injured list due to discomfort in his right elbow, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros recalled Brady Rodgers from Triple-A Round Rock.

McHugh, 31, has struggled to a 6.04 ERA with a 48/16 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings across eight starts and two relief appearances. If the elbow injury is really an elbow injury and not just an excuse for the Astros to give McHugh a reprieve, this could be bad news.

Rodgers, 28, posted a 3.22 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 16 walks in 44 2/3 innings in the minors this season. He had a cup of coffee with the Astros in 2016, yielding 14 runs in 8 1/3 innings. Here’s hoping his latest stint goes a bit better than that.