The Rays and Astros have set their starters for Thursday’s Game 5 of the ALCS. Tampa Bay will give the start to right-handed reliever John Curtiss in what should be a bullpen game, while Houston is turning to rookie right-hander Luis Garcia with their season on the line. Garcia has yet to pitch in the playoffs and pitched just 12 1/3 regular-season frames — his first career work above the Class-A Advanced level.
The 27-year-old Curtiss proved to be the latest gem unearthed by the Rays, as he gave the club 25 innings of 1.80 ERA ball with a 25-to-3 K/BB ratio during the regular season. The former Twins prospect was greeted rudely in his playoff debut earlier this month when the Yankees clobbered him for five runs in just two thirds of an inning, but he’s bounced back with a trio of scoreless outings. Curtiss didn’t pitch more than 2 2/3 innings in any appearance this season and hasn’t thrown more than 43 pitches in an outing, so it’ll be an all-hands-on-deck approach for the Rays today.
Garcia, 23, hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 27 and wasn’t asked to pitch more than two innings at any point after a five-inning effort back on Sept. 9. The Astros won’t be asking for bulk innings from the rookie today, as manager Dusty Baker told reporters his hope is that Garcia can navigate a potent Rays lineup once through the order (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). It’s a stark contrast from last year’s Astros club, which rode the trio of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke to Game 7 of the World Series, but it’s also a testament to the club’s young pitching that their arms have been able to take them this far in spite of so many key injuries to veteran pitchers.
In other lineup news, Baker revealed that x-rays taken after Michael Brantley fouled a ball into his foot were negative. He’s batting second as the Astros’ DH in today’s elimination game.