The Houston Astros have three games remaining with which to either punch their ticket to the postseason or fall just short. They'll open a regular season-capping series with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday a game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot. While they know who's pitching for them, they don't really know one other important aspect of the series: How to get Evan Gattis in the game.
There's no doubting that Gattis is one of the main cogs of the Astros' offense, but there's no designated hitter in NL ballparks.
Faced with this conundrum, Houston will have to either use Gattis in pinch-hitting opportunities or use him in the outfield - where he's only played 11 games this season.
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Manager A.J. Hinch explained the team's situation to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle: "It's unfortunate because it's the way the regular season ends. We're the only team in the race that's having to go through that. … It is what it is. It's not changing. We'll deal with it; we'll fluctuate some of our playing time a little bit, we'll play the National League style. I do like our interleague record this year. Maybe that's in our favor."
The Astros are 14-3 in interleague play this season in games played in NL parks as well as Minute Maid Park.
Opinions vary widely regarding the use of the DH in baseball and whether it should be abolished (or adopted by both leagues). The Astros' schedule quirk of having to deal with this for the most important three games of their season is a bit inconvenient, but as Hinch said above 'it is what it is', and they must find a way around it.
As for Gattis, he's preparing himself to be a pinch-hitter and could enter at any point in the game if the club is looking for a big hit. He's also been doing some outfield work, just in case: "I've been mentally and physically throwing more in the outfield and taking ground balls," Gattis told Drellich. "Ground balls have always given me the worst trouble. Told him I'm prepared if that's what they want to do."
As for his strange penchant for triples this season (he has 11, despite no stolen bases). When asked by Drellich about the triples, he said, "Weird. For me, that's what it's been like, weird."
Of course, all this means it shouldn't be surprising if Gattis steps up in a big pinch-hitting spot this weekend and collects another three-bagger.