HOUSTON – During the Astros 2017 postseason run to the World Series title, the only thing that seemed to potentially stand in their way was a shaky bullpen. Over the course of the Astros 18 postseason games, the relievers posted a 6.38 ERA.
Those numbers don’t include the work of Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr. -- each of whom was used in relief during the postseason.
The front office knew if a repeat was going to be a strong possibility, the bullpen would have to upgraded. They made several moves like signing free agent relievers Hector Rondon and Joe Smith.
The Astros also added reliever Ryan Pressly before the trade deadline in July and then made most controversial addition to the team, when they traded for suspended Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna.
Osuna was one of the league’s best young relievers, who had piled up 95 saves over his first three seasons in Toronto.
But the 23-year old pitched in just 15 games with the Blue Jays this season before being hit with a 75-game suspension by Major League Baseball for violating the league's domestic violence policy.
Osuna did not appeal the suspension which ran through Aug. 4, just days after the Astros acquired him.
He would be reinstated and join the team shortly thereafter and then pitched very well in his 23 appearances with Houston. He converted all 12 of his save opportunities while posting a 1.99 ERA.
His acquisition was met with plenty of backlash since he was acquired while serving a suspension for violation of the league’s domestic abuse policy. The Astros issued a statement regarding their zero tolerance policy, but also indicating players deserved a second chance and that the charges obviously came prior to his time in Houston.
That mixed message did not sit well with many fans not only in Houston, but around the country.
Several hearings regarding his assault charge took place in Canada since Osuna joined the team, the last of which occurred during the final week of the regular season and resulted in Osuna agreeing to a peace bond, which is similar to a restraining order and the assault charge was withdrawn.
The Astros bullpen ERA in 2017 was 4.27, which ranked 17th in baseball during that regular season. In 2018, the Astros bullpen ERA (3.03) ranked first in baseball by more than three-tenths of a run.
Osuna is the clear-cut closer heading into the postseason and also carries some impressive postseason numbers of his own.
In 14 career postseason appearances (all in relief), Osuna has a 1.04 ERA with a 0.46 WHIP, with 16 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched.