Dan's Dugout: Bad Bullpen Burdens Astros • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Bad Bullpen Burdens Astros

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NEW YORK – Every team has an Achilles Heel.

For the Houston Astros, that weakness is the bullpen.

Ken Giles has been a bust for Houston in the playoffs

Ken Giles has been a bust for Houston in the playoffs

Ken Giles can’t hold a candle to any of closers deployed by any of the other teams that reached the playoffs.

The New York Yankees have David Robertson, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman, not to mention the suddenly-mortal Dellin Betances.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the verge of sweeping the World Champion Chicago Cubs, have an indestructible strikeout machine named Kenley Jansen.

Soon-to-be free agent Wade Davis works in the late innings for the Cubs.

Even teams already defeated have more beef in the bullpen.

The Cleveland Indians have Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The Washington Nationals have Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. The Boston Red Sox have Craig Kimbrel. Even the Colorado Rockies (Greg Holland) and Minnesota Twins (Matt Belisle) have more reliable relief arms than the Astros.

That’s why the Astros made a valiant stab at Baltimore’s brilliant lefthanded closer Zach Britton before the trading deadline. They finally settled for Francisco Liriano, a lefthanded starter who had never worked out of the bullpen before.

It showed.

Ken Giles had pitched like Warren Giles in the postseason, possibly costing Houston its second pennant.

Thanks to his implosion Tuesday night, the Astros squandered a late 4-0 lead and allowed the Yankees to wrest a 2-2 tie in the best-of-five American League Championship Series.

In all fairness, Houston manager A.J. Hinch started the eighth inning with Joe Musgrove, an awful choice for a pressure-packed postseason situation in a hostile Yankee Stadium.

By the time Giles came in, the Yankees had runners on second and third with nobody out and were just one base-hit away from tying the game.

They got it, thanks to Giles.

Had he been following the pattern of other clubs, Hinch would not have used Giles at all.

He should have asked Justin Verlander, the rested Game 2 starter, to pitch the last couple of innings. It was his day to throw between starts anyway and he eats pinstripes for breakfast.

Justin Verlander could have helped Houston preserve Game 4 lead Credit: Lisa Luevanos

Justin Verlander could have helped Houston preserve Game 4 lead Credit: Lisa Luevanos

As for Giles, he was okay during the season, racking up 34 saves and a 2.30 earned run average with 83 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. But the postseason pressure intensifies enormously, especially on players who have never been there before.

Heading into Game 5 Wednesday, Giles had made four relief appearances – all of them shaky at best. Working twice against the Boston Red Sox in the AL Division Series, Giles gave up three hits and two runs in three innings. He was worse against the Yankees, yielding four hits and three runs in two innings. Two gopherballs were part of that dubious record.

The 26-year-old righthander, inserted to preserve a 2-0 Houston lead in Game 1, instead yielded a long home run to Greg Bird. Judging by his subsequent outings, that rattled whatever confidence he had left – especially after the series switched to the Bronx.

Especially unsettling to Astros followers is the postseason history of the Yankees: they have won all eight of the Championship Series in which they won the fourth game.

It could be awhile before we see Ken Giles again.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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