Surviving the first inning
We talked about it in our Game 2 preview, but one of the biggest keys for Stephen Strasburg was trying to survive the first inning.
The Houston Astros have been really good at scoring in the first inning this postseason with 10 first-inning runs. And they’ve scored in the first inning in four straight postseason games now, and in three straight games they’ve scored multiple runs in the first inning.
And we all know Strasburg has struggled in the first inning throughout his career with an ERA of 3.99 in the first inning. And it’s been even worse this year with a 4.26 ERA in the first inning this season.
It looked like this was another game where things might get away from Strasburg in the first inning as Jose Altuve hit a one-out double.
But in maybe an overlooked play in this game, Altuve was caught stealing trying to take third.
Of course, you never know how differently things play out if Altuve just stays on second base, but two batters later Alex Bregman hit a two-run home run that would have given the Astros a 3-2 lead, but instead just tied it up.
But maybe even bigger than that, it helped Strasburg keep his pitch count down.
If Altuve stays put, there is a good chance Strasburg has to face at least one more batter in that first inning, forcing him to throw more pitches.
He wound up throwing 114 pitches over 6 innings, but maybe he gets pulled sooner if he has to throw those extra pitches in the first.
You never know, but looking back, that caught stealing in the first inning saved Strasburg from more first inning trouble, and possibly allowed him to work deeper in this game.