We have drama finally in the MLB Playoffs as the Houston Astros evened this series on Thursday. The visiting team has won in this series’s first four games. The Rangers need to win game five to return to Houston with the series lead. The pitching matchup makes me believe that runs will be at a premium in game five of this series.
Montgomery was excellent in Game 1 of this series, holding one of baseball’s premier lineups scoreless for six and one-third innings while mixing up his pitches beautifully.
Montgomery threw his sinker 42% of the time during regular season play while using his curveball and changeup about equally (about 22% each). But for Game 1, Montgomery heavily utilized his curveball.
Montgomery knows there’s a reason for that, too: The Astros this season had only a +1.9 run value against curveballs – their lowest mark against any pitch type – making him aware that Montgomery should utilize his curveball more often and keep throwing it, with its Stuff+ rating reaching 121. He can do exactly the same against them in Game 5.
Moral of the Story: When facing off against the Rangers lineup, no matter what pitch type or location is thrown their way, they are sure to hit it hard and often. They were third in baseball for wOBA against right-handed pitching while having positive run values for every type of pitch type, requiring you to be precise with your command to keep their lineup quiet.
After falling behind early to the Astros, Bochy saved his top three arms: Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Leclerc to have them fresh for Game 5.
Verlander did not perform poorly in Game 1. He gave up two runs on six hits; of 51 pitches the Rangers hit, only four were considered hard hits.
Verlander utilized his fastball frequently during this game, using it just under 50% of the time and averaging just over 94 mph – this fits within his averages for this season.
Verlander hasn’t pitched exceptionally well since rejoining the Astros, but his performance has dramatically improved as we neared the end of both regular season and postseason play. Over his last four starts he has only given up three earned runs on 15 hits over 25 2/3 innings; thus, there is no reason to downgrade him after his Game 1 performance.
Verlander stands out against left-handed batters with his ability to hold them to just a.247 wOBA this season, making him a formidable adversary against a Rangers lineup that likely contains at least five left-handed bats on Friday night.
Verlander’s stuff has remained steady and above league average, earning a Stuff+ rating of 106; more significantly, though, his Location+ during the final month showed that he’s starting to control his pitches more.
Despite their poor showing in Game 1, Houston is an ideal team to face Montgomery. Houston finished third overall during the regular season in left-handed pitching with an OBP/K rate of.346 and possessing one of the lowest strikeout rates.
Montgomery’s sinker, changeup and curveball were among the pitches the Astros hit well during their regular season success against. To be exact, their run value against Montgomery was +2.2 against left-handed versions of these pitches combined; however, when facing him earlier they struggled.
With their early lead in Game 4, the Astros were able to preserve three key arms in their bullpen that pitched on Wednesday (Ryan Pressley, Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu), using much of the back end as backup, meaning all are available for Game 5.
I lean towards Montgomery in a close, low-scoring game; take the rangers to win this game.
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