Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Good pitching beats good hitting in the playoffs

This is what I'm telling myself as the Astros open the NLCS tonight against the Cards. The Astros don't have the offensive firepower that they rode to game 7 of the NLCS against the Cards last year, but their pitching rotation is in much, much better shape. Andy Pettite was lost for the season last year. Because the series with the Braves went five games in 2004, the Astros' remaining rotation was discombobulated, and journeyman Pete Munroe was forced into two starts, whereas Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens weren't utilized to maximum advantage (granted, Clemens did start game 7, but that wasn't ideal).

This year, things have shaped up much more in the Astros' favor, even if the Cards are once again baseball's best team during the regular season. Whereas the Astros' starting rotation was patched-together a year ago, and the middle relief was so questionable that manager Phil Garner often tried to skip over it and go directly to dominant closer Brad Lidge in the late innings, this year the reverse is true. The way the division series against the Braves played out allows the Astros to go into St. Louis with Pettite and Oswalt starting games 1 and 2 on regular rest, with Clemens in game 3 on (well-deserved) five day's rest, and Brandon Backe in game 4. If the series goes beyond four games (and who doesn't expect it to?) Houston gets to start the cycle anew with Pettite, Oswalt and Clemens on the mound for games 5, 6 and 7. Fully rested. With closer Lidge just as dominant as ever. And that's not even considering the middle relief pitching. What was a liability last season is a strength this time around, with Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls and Russ Springer ready to step in with quality innings, and Mike Gallo and fifth starter, southpaw Wandy Rodriguez, solid options as well.

They say good pitching beats good hitting in the playoffs. There's no doubt that the Cards have better bats than the 'Stros, but even with Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter going up against Pettite for St. Louis, there's no way I'd swap this Houston pitching staff for any other in the majors. It even tops the vaunted '86 Astros rotation that boasted Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan and Bob Knepper. So. Hitting: Advantage Cards. Pitching: Advantage Astros. We'll soon see if the truism holds up.

Now Playing: Stu Phillips Battlestar Galactica Original Soundtrack: 25th Anniversary Edition

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is that I hope you're right about pitching v. hitting. Fingers crossed in Alvin.