NEW YORK — In the playoffs, Ryne Stanek was one of baseball’s most elite relief pitchers. He posted a 0.98 ERA in mostly leveraged situations in the final two months of the regular season.
These statistics don’t lie. The Astros’ right-handed reliever walked a little too much but almost never let anyone score.
So when it was midway through the American League Championship Series and Stanek had only made one playoff appearance — out of necessity in an 18-inning affair — Houston manager Dusty Baker, decided to have a chat with his reliever.
“He came to me,” Stanek said on Saturday. “But I think it was more because other people had made it a bigger deal than us. I know it’s okay. Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way that lets me in. Yeah, I would love to throw every game. But that’s not how baseball works.
But in theory, games have was flowing towards Stanek. The Astros had plenty of leads near and late. It’s a perfect time for a pitcher with a 1.15 regular season ERA and 3.02 FIP who strikes out more than one batter per inning. This is especially true for a pitcher in a non-left-handed bullpen who has reverse splits to generally dominate left-handed hitters.
But the Astros’ bullpen has been so good and playoff roles are more defined. Hector Neris leaves the enclosure first. Then Bryan Abreu. There is Rafael Montero for the eighth. And closer to Ryan Pressley for round nine. He was stereotyped and effective. No reason, yet, for Stanek to change his mind.
Stanek has now pitched two games in these playoffs. He has four strikeouts in two innings. No batter reached. The 31-year-old has pitched in almost every game in the 2021 playoffs. He’s only missed three of their 16 games. This was not the case this time around.
“He’s going to get in there, big,” Baker said midway through the ALCS. “And I told him about it. I just said, you know, you can’t throw everyone all the time, and our starters are doing so well. But I have to get him in there to keep him alive.
Read the full story here.
(Photo: Troy Taormina/USA Today)