The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
The Houston Astros are armed and dangerous

No, the Astros aren’t packing guns these days, although they may have been three years ago, to protect themselves from the backlash of the sign stealing scandal. For today’s Astros though, “arms” refers to their talented pitching staff. And their pitchers have been a real danger to their postseason opponents.

By far, the Astros’ starters and relievers are head and shoulders above the rest of the postseason pack. As one of the TV broadcasters said in a recent game, “The Astros are an embarrassment of riches,” referring to the depth of their impressive staff.

A common theme with this postseason has been “it’s not about which team is better, but which team gets hotter at the right time.” Well, the Astros are showing why they are the best team and also happen to be playing really hot right now, led by its excellent pitching.

Astros pitchers were key factors in taking care of the Seattle Mariners in the League Division Series, sweeping them in three games. Yeah, two of the Astros’ wins were by a single run, including the 18-inning marathon. But with the way the Astros pitch, they don’t have to score many runs to win.

Consider these stats for the ALDS against the Mariners:

Only three of the 11 pitchers used by the Astros gave up runs, with ace Justin Verlander surprisingly giving up 6 of their total of 9 for the three-game series. The team ERA was 2.25.

In 36 innings pitched by the Astros, they yielded only 25 hits and 11 walks, for a WHIP of 1.000.

Astros pitchers struck out a total of 39 batters in the series, for an average of 1.08 per inning or 9.95 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings (SO/9), 3.55 Strikeouts per Walk (SO/W).

But these results should come as no surprise. During the regular season, the Astros pitching staff finished first in the American League with a 2.90 ERA, a 1.092 WHIP, 9.5 SO/9, 3.33 SO/W.

Against the Yankees in the League Championship Series, the Astros were even better during the first three games in which they defeated the Bronx “not-so” Bombers. The Yankees have been in a funk since August, and the Astros pitchers didn’t provide them any opportunity to get out of it during their series.

Here are the stats for the first three games of the ALCS:

In 27 innings, Astros staff yielded only 12 hits, 9 walks, and 2 earned runs, while striking out 41. They never gave the Yankees a chance to get ahead in the score or gain any momentum throughout the three games. Yankees batters, including home run record-setter Aaron Judge, had trouble making contact.

In Game 4 on Sunday the Yankees broke the spell of the Astros’ pitchers. The Yankees finally showed some life in the series by getting to starter Lance McCullers Jr. early. He wasn’t sharp in his five innings, as he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and a walk, while striking out 6. Each time the Yankees went ahead in the game, the Astros responded with their own lead, ultimately winning the game, 6-5, and earning the American League pennant.

The Astros have four solid starters, led by probable Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, who happens to hold the all-time record for strikeouts in postseason play. He is followed by Framber Valdez, who broke the record for quality starts during the regular season, Cristian Javier, and McCullers Jr., all of whom have prior postseason experience.

From the bullpen, manager Dusty Baker isn’t hesitant to call on any of his Latino Express that includes hard-throwing pitchers Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, Hector Neris, and Luis Garcia. Then he also has his closer Ryan Pressly, Hunter Brown, and Ryne Stanek. Baker’s pitching staff struck out 26% of batters faced during the regular season.

The Astros have a clear advantage against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. And their big weapon will again be their solid pitching staff.

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