Astros make rotation decisions for crucial final series vs. Diamondbacks

Unsurprisingly, Houston will rely on ace Dallas Keuchel to start the final series of the regular season on a good note. 

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Earlier this week, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch more or less clarified that his team’s main objective was qualifying for the postseason by any means necessary – not focusing on which pitcher starts what game in preparation for potential playoff games that may or may not even happen. Entering play Thursday Houston is ahead of the Los Angeles Angels by a half-game for the second Wild Card spot and trails the Texas Rangers by two and a half games in the AL West. 

Fast-forward a few days and the Astros have made a decision regarding their plans for this upcoming weekend’s series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Faced with an interleague road series as the final three games of the regular season, Houston will send ace Dallas Keuchel out on Friday night and follow that up with Collin McHugh on Saturday at Chase Field. Sunday’s starter will either be Lance McCullers or Mike Fiers. 

As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle points out, that would put Keuchel in line to pitch on Tuesday in a potential Wild Card game situation on three days’ rest. 

Hinch told Drellich that these rotation maneuverings were planned around Keuchel’s schedule, as he’s a stickler for routine. Said Keuchel to Drellich about that aspect of things, "I think any time you’re routine-oriented, you’d like to stay on the same routine."

However, Keuchel isn’t letting his mind wander toward the potential Wild Card game start he’s currently in line to make should the Astros get there next Tuesday. “If the opportunity presents itself, it’s something we’ll talk about,” Keuchel told Drellich. “But we got to get there first before that even comes about. So if we don’t do our job the next three … games, then we don’t have anything to talk about with a day’s short rest.”

As for McHugh, he also doesn’t seem too concerned about pitching on short rest either: “It’s nothing,” McHugh said to Drellich. “Six days’ rest, five days’ rest, four days’ rest. It’s all the same at this point. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to pitch."

The simplistic, pragmatic approach to this all-important final series of the regular season belies just how crucial it will be for the Astros’ chances. As has been documented, the AL West and AL Wild Card races will both go down to the wire, and how Keuchel and McHugh fare in Arizona this weekend will have a lot to do with how things shake out come Sunday night.