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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.

Justin Verlander named 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner

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Astros starter Justin Verlander was voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner. Teammate Gerrit Cole finished in a close second place at 159 points. Charlie Morton finished third at 75 points, Shane Bieber fourth at 64, Lance Lynn fifth at 18, Eduardo Rodríguez and Lucas Giolito sixth at eight, and Mike Minor eighth at seven.

Verlander, 36, won the AL Cy Young Award (and AL MVP Award) in 2011 with the Tigers). He and Cole became the first pair of teammates to finish first and second on the ballot for the AL Cy Young Award. Four NL teammates accomplished the feat: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 and ’02, Don Newcomb and Sal Maglie in 1956, and Mike Marshall and Andy Messersmith in 1974.

During the regular season, Verlander led all starting pitchers in wins (21), games started (34), innings pitched (223), and WHIP (0.803). He also compiled a 2.58 ERA with a 300/42 K/BB ratio. Along with a 300-strikeout season, Verlander achieved other milestones, including reaching 3,000 strikeouts for his career and 200 career postseason strikeouts (an all-time record).

2019 was not without controversy for Verlander, a future Hall of Famer, as he had a well-publicized disagreement with Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. He tried to have Fenech barred from the clubhouse during media availability despite the collective bargaining agreement ensuring access to BBWAA-credentialed reporters. It was one of many Astros-related scandals in 2019.

Verlander is the first Astro to win the Cy Young Award since Dallas Keuchel in 2015. Roger Clemens (2004) and Mike Scott (1986) also won the award back when the Astros were in the National League.