HomeTrending MLB NewsStruggling Astros are getting a massive boost on Friday

Struggling Astros are getting a massive boost on Friday

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The Houston Astros have struggled to start 2024 but help is on the way, with ace Justin Verlander expected to make his season debut against the Washington Nationals on Friday, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic on the social media platform X. 

Verlander made a rehab start with Double-A Corpus-Christi on April 13, throwing 78 pitches while allowing five earned runs over four innings. 

“He feels good, he feels confident,” Astros manager Joe Espada said of Verlander as relayed by Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. “He wants to contribute, and he knows we need him on the mound. We need his presence, and right now, he’s right where he needs to be.”

Early on this season, a major issue for the Astros (6-13) has been starting pitching. The team’s rotation has the fifth-highest ERA (5.13) in Major League Baseball, even despite Ronel Blanco throwing a no-hitter in his first start of the year.  Part of the problem has been injuries to pitchers like Verlander and Opening Day starter Framber Valdez, with five starters currently on the injured list. 

Splitting time between the Astros and New York Mets last summer, Verlander showed he’s still a reliable starting pitcher, making 27 starts in 162 1/3 innings.

He did show a decline in some of his advanced stats and the “shoulder fatigue,” he felt during spring training might be a sign of concern. According to Baseball Savant, last season saw Verlander’s walk rate (6.7%) and hard-hit percentage (36.3%) rise while his strikeout rate (22.2%) fell when compared with his 2022 performance. 

Despite not having the nasty swing-and-miss stuff of previous years, Verlander showed that he still knows how to get outs and give a team some length. He finished with the ninth-best ERA among qualified starters in 2023 at 3.22 and averaged just over six innings per start. 

With the Astros starters averaging less than five innings per game so far this year, even a slightly diminished Verlander should be a valuable addition not just for the starting rotation but the over-used bullpen as well. 

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