Astros' Neris comes up big in postseason debut

In his postseason debut, Hector Neris kept the Astros in game two by leaving the bases loaded in the sixth inning
Photo credit Troy Taormina/USA Today

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- The Mariners were threatening to blow game two wide open.

Already leading 2-1, they loaded the bases against Framber Valdez with two outs in the sixth, in front of the dangerous Cal Raleigh. The 25-year old, switch-hitting catcher finished his first full season in the Majors with a 122 OPS+, and he was 5-for-12 batting cleanup in Seattle’s first three postseason games while driving in at least one run in each.

Raleigh has been better against right-handed pitchers this season, so Servais dropped him down to seventh in the Mariners order on Thursday against the Astros lefty starter. The two had never faced each other before, and after Valdez had retired Raleigh in his first two at bats, the easy move would’ve been for Dusty Baker to leave his All-Star starting pitcher in the game for a third battle, but the Astros manager had another idea.

Baker popped out of the Astros dugout and pointed towards the bullpen in right-center field, summoning Hector Neris to make his postseason debut, eschewing the platoon advantage in the process.

“We think that he has a repertoire of pitches to get him out in that situation,” Baker said.

Neris’ repertoire to lefties consists of two pitches: a four-seam fastball and a splitter. He held left-handed hitters to a .211 batting average and a .281 slugging percentage against his splitter in 2022. When opponents offered at that pitch, they came up empty 47 percent of the time. That lined up perfectly with Raleigh, who hit .154 on splitters this season after posting a .182 average against them in 2021 with whiff rates of 38.9 and 40.7 percent.

Raleigh saw four pitches. He swung and missed at the first, took the second, could not check his swing on the third, and hit a soft, 70.7 MPH bouncer towards Jose Altuve to end the Mariners threat.

“Raleigh's been one of their most dangerous hitters down the stretch,” Baker said. “We just thought that that was the time because Framber was struggling. Raleigh had just hit a rocket to center field off Framber in his last at-bat, and so we decided to go with Neris.”

Baker’s decision worked, Neris kept the Astros within striking distance and four batters later, Yordan Alvarez delivered a game-deciding lightning strike over the Crawford Boxes.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA Today