The Houston Astros named their starters for the first two games of the upcoming ALCS versus the Tampa Bay Rays. Breakout star Framber Valdez will get the ball in game one, while Lance McCullers Jr. will start the second game on Monday night, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and others (via Twitter).
The 26-year-old Valdez established himself in the rotation this season for the Astros, going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA/2.85 FIP over 70 2/3 innings with 9.7 K/9 to 2.0 BB/9. His two postseason appearances have been particularly sharp. He threw 5 scoreless innings in relief to lock down game one of the wild card series against the Twins. He then went 7 innings in game two against the A’s, yielding just a pair of runs en route to a victory and a 2-0 series advantage. He’ll get a shot to set a similar tone against the left-leaning Rays.
A veteran of big games, McCullers Jr. will get the ball in game two. The Tampa native will make his 6th career postseason start against the Rays on Monday night. McCullers’ sole postseason appearance this year came in an ALDS game one start against the Athletics. It wasn’t a great outing, as the 27-year-old went 4 innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 home runs, and 5 runs in total – though only 4 were earned. During the regular season, he made 11 starts with a 3.93 ERA/3.70 FIP across 55 innings with 9.2 K/9 to 3.3 BB/9.
Because this series has the potential to go 7 games in 7 days, it’s unclear when Valdez and McCullers Jr. might be ready to pitch a second time. On normal rest, they could return for back-to-back starts in games 6 and 7, but it’s more likely the Astros turn to them sooner, depending on the results of the first few games of the series.