It’s safe to say that the Houston Astros are one of the most hated teams in baseball after a cheating scandal that came to light before the beginning of this season. Despite claims that Houston used illegal sign stealing towards their success in 2017 and 18′, they’ve returned with vengeance in the playoffs so far, despite finishing under .500 in the regular season.
The Astros breezed past the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series, sweeping them in a best-of-three set, and then beat the Oakland Athletics in the AL Division Series, 3-1, to advance to their fourth-straight AL Championship Series.
Yes, this is a team that was 29-31 in a 60-game season, but the shortened campaign is a prime example that anyone could win the Fall Classic this year. They basically played less than half of a normal 162-game season, and we all know how much things can change after the All-Star break.
Offense Leading The Way
The Astros may not have the dominant arms they once had, but their offense is still as electric as ever. Sure, they hit .242 as a team during the regular season, but every single one of these players knows how to perform in the heat of October. Through just six postseason contests, Houston has already clubbed 13 bombs while hitting .281 as a whole.
Carlos Correa has led the way, batting .500 while going deep four times and driving in 12 runs. The likes of Alex Bregman, Brantley, George Springer, and Jose Altuve are all hitting around the .300 mark, as well. In four games against the A’s the Astros scored 35 runs after outscoring opponents by just four runs during the regular season. The consistency they’re showing offensively can’t be ignored as Houston has done this time and time again for numerous seasons.
This lineup as a whole is extremely familiar with postseason baseball. They’ve all been in this spot before, and after the entire baseball world basically saying they cheated their way to success, Houston has a point to prove. The fact they were able to light up a very good Oakland pitching staff speaks to the character of this Astros team and their desire to return to the World Series.
Pitching Has Held Its Own
The Astros staff struggled during the regular season, posting a 4.31 ERA, a drastic change from past years when they usually led the league in pitching. But with Gerrit Cole now a member of the New York Yankees and Justin Verlander missing nearly the entire season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, the Astros haven’t been as dominant on the mound. However, they’ve looked a lot better in the playoffs and, for the most part, have kept their ballclub in games with a 3.83 ERA. The only concern would be that they’ve given up 12 bombs in just six playoff contests.
The starters haven’t necessarily been great with the exception of Framber Valdez, who has posted a 1.50 ERA in one start and a relief appearance. Lance McCullers and Zack Greinke got hit around a bit by Oakland, but the bullpen has been solid in relief. Cristian Javier was dominant in three appearances, earning the win in Game 4 against the Athletics, where he tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless baseball while striking out four hitters. Enoli Paredes has also looked good, giving up no runs in three outings.
Closer Ryan Pressly continues to be reliable, as well, grabbing two saves in the ALDS. As a whole, Houston has a good bullpen that provides stability for the starters. It’s very important that they continue to pitch well if this team wants any chance at getting to another Fall Classic.
Cheating Scandal Fuelling The Astros
I honestly don’t think there is any team left in the postseason who is this motivated to win it all. Houston went into Minnesota and swept a very good Twins team in the Wild Card Series. That in itself was impressive, but then the Stros dominated an Oakland team who, on paper, was a whole lot better this season. Dusty Baker‘s team is riding a high right now, and with the way they’re swinging the bats, nothing looks to be stopping them. Whether they face the Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays, Houston will be facing some top-notch arms. Houston may have had a down year offensively, but they’ve come alive at the most important moment.
If this team wants to advance, their starting pitching must be better. New York and Tampa Bay both have potent lineups that can do serious damage if the Astros staff doesn’t bring their best. Regardless of whether Houston makes it past the ALCS, it’s amazing that they’re playing for a pennant after such an underwhelming season.
But if the offense continues to terrorize opposing arms at this rate, anything is possible as the Astros look to advance to their third World Series in the last four years.