After three consecutive years of finishing 40.0 or more games out of their division from 2011 to 2013 (moving from the National League Central to the American League West after 2012), the Houston Astros showed signs of life in 2014. They won 70 games for the first time since 2010, but still finished fourth in the AL West, 28.0 games behind the division champion Los Angeles Angels. After 2014, hopes were high for Astros fans, with young, talented players like Dallas Keuchel and Jose Altuve breaking out at the MLB level and impact prospects Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers set to make their MLB debuts in 2015.
They did not disappoint the Houston fan base, with the team reaching the postseason for the first time since Roger Clemens led the team to the World Series in 2005. After leading the division for most of the season, the Astros were overtaken by the Texas Rangers down the stretch. They were forced to travel to New York to square up with the Yankees for the AL Wild Card game. American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel dazzled in the Bronx, and the Astros advanced to the ALDS, where they lost a hard-fought series to the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, three games to two.
With their renewed success comes higher expectations, and the Astros faced the task of remaining competitive in a division with many high-quality teams. Without the large-market payroll afforded to the rival Angels and Rangers, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow has to be wise in his spending and focus on producing more productive players through the minor leagues.