HOUSTON — In October, every player’s hot streaks and slumps are magnified as the stakes increase.
The Houston Astros bullpen picked a bad time to go into a collective funk – with closer Ken Giles struggling worse than anyone. Giles’ inability to keep Game 4 of the World Series tied in the ninth inning fueled another bullpen meltdown as the Astros fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I didn’t do my job. Plain and simple. I let my team down,” Giles said.
With Game 4 tied 1-1, manager A.J. Hinch called on his embattled closer to keep the Los Angeles Dodgers in check.
Three batters later – a single, a walk and a double – the Dodgers had the lead and Giles was back in the clubhouse after giving up at least one run for the sixth time in seven playoff appearances.
With the World Series all even, the question is whether or not Hinch can trust his closer the rest of the way.
“Clearly he's trying to push through the adversity that he's had,” Hinch said. “But to be a back-end reliever you've got to live on that edge of not carrying too long of a memory because of the things that can happen at the back of the game.”
Giles was fantastic in the regular season, pitching to a 2.30 ERA and converting 34 of 38 save opportunities.
However, it’s been a different story in the playoffs. After being charged with three runs and not getting an out in Game 4, Giles’ postseason ERA rose to 11.74.
“I’m gonna have my ups, I’m gonna have my downs, and right now I’m down. But the only way to get back on track is to get up, dust myself off and be ready to go,” he said.
So what happens if the Astros have a lead late in Game 5?
Brad Peacock is likely unavailable after pitching 3 2/3 innings on Friday. Will Harris pitched 2/3 of an inning in Game 5, but allowed the tying run to score.
Joe Musgrove had a 1.44 ERA in the regular season out of the bullpen. He came in after Giles and after allowing a run on a sacrifice fly, gave up a three-run homer to the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson to turn a nail-biter into a blowout.
“In the bullpen it’s easy to get down on yourself. You go in for one inning or sometimes one out and you give up a big hit,” Musgrove said.
“You’ve got to be able to flip the switch and start a new day tomorrow.”
Of course, the Astros are dangerously close to not having a tomorrow. They have one more game at home before heading back to Los Angeles for Game 6 and possibly Game 7.
Hinch has gone against convention twice in these playoffs by using a starter for a multiple-inning save.
“We’ve got to get to 27 outs,” he said. “It seems like right now for some of these guys it’s one pitch and things unravel a little bit. That’s what happened to Kenny in the ninth.”
Now, it’s a case of finding someone to get those last three outs. The way he’s going, Giles may or may not get another chance.
“I’m gonna have my ups, I’m gonna have my downs, and right now I’m down,” he said. “But the only way to get back on track is to get up, dust myself off and be ready to go.”