If I had a choice as to who should be in the playoff rotation with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, I'd have to go with Brad Peacock. While Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers have playoff experience, both have been oft-injured and inconsistent while Peacock has been Houston's most consistent starter all year. Another case in point was Thursday night's series finale in Anaheim where Peacock gave up just three hits and one run over six innings and let four relievers carve up the final nine outs in a 5-2 victory that closed out a 5-5 road trip and dropped the Astros' magic number for clinching the A.L. West to three.
Peacock: In the mix to start playoffs?
(c) Associated Press
Keep in mind, when you read my endorsement of Peacock, that I have wondered aloud several times since 2015 why he was even taking up a roster spot. Yet he has rewarded Jeff Luhnow's faith in him with the season of his career - an 11-2 mark with a 2.98 ERA where he progressed from the last man in the bullpen (winning a job only because McHugh was on the Disabled List) to arguably the best Houston starter if the whole season is factored together.
His only blemish Thursday was a solo homer from Luis Valbuena who went deep for the second night in a row against the club that cut him loose in free agency last winter.
The Astros got scant production from their three All-Stars in the lineup but received enough offense from the secondary players to come away with a win. Marwin Gonzalez spanked a one-out single in the second off Ricky Nolasco. Alex Bregman followed with an RBI double to left and Yuli Gurriel, who had three hits on the night, punched a base hit to bring Bregman home for a 2-0 lead.
It stayed a 2-1 nailbiter until the eighth when Josh Reddick greeted Jose Alvarez with a line double to right. After a walk and a strike out, Gonzalez drilled a double to center that scored Reddick and Jose Altuve. In the ninth, Carlos Beltran doubled against Fernando Salas and was lifted for pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Gurriel singled then Brian McCann lofted a sacrifice fly to score Fisher.
Ken Giles was used in relief in the eighth inning so the ninth was turned over to Chris Devenski. Devo gave up a solo shot to Albert Pujols, increasing Pujols' franchise record with the 56th home run of his career against an Astros pitcher. Andrelton Simmons also singled in the ninth but Devenski fanned Valbuena and C.J. Cron to close out the win.
A night after Houston pitcher Mike Fiers threw a fastball above and behind Valbuena's head for his bat flip while starting his home run trot, Major League Baseball suspended Fiers for five games, essentially costing him one start in the rotation, something many fans think helps the Astros rather than hurts them. Fiers allowed eight runs in less than four innings Wednesday night in a 9-1 defeat.
At long last, the Astros fly home to begin a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. Lefty James Paxton (12-3) comes off the Disabled List to start Friday night's 7:10 Central contest against Charlie Morton (11-7). The M's, with faint wild card hopes still lurking, have lost to Houston 11 of 16 games this season.
Likely the Astros will clinch the division during this series and an improptu celebration will begin when it does. If you've never been in the stands for one of these, you're missing something special so come out this weekend or take your best guess which game will be the clincher.
- Bob Hulsey