The MLB postseason continues on Wednesday night with the Colorado Rockies taking on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET on TBS). I've been doing a dossier of every team in the playoffs. It's now time to take a close look at the Houston Astros, who open their American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday (4 p.m. ET, MLB Network).
Team: Houston Astros
Finished the regular season as: 2017 American League West champs
Last postseason appearance: 2015 ALDS (lost to Kansas City)
Last World Series appearance: 2005
Last World Series title: Never
Top 10 players, 2017 season
- Jose Altuve, (.346/.410/.547, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 112 runs, 204 hits, 32 SB, 7.5 fWAR)
- Carlos Correa, (.315/.391/.550, 422 AB, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 82 runs, 5.2 fWAR)
- George Springer, (.283/.367/.522, 34 HR, 85 RBI, 112 runs, 4.5 fWAR)
- Marwin Gonzalez, (.303/.377/.530, 23 HR, 90 RBI, 67 runs, 4.1 fWAR)
- Alex Bregman, (.284/.352/.475, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 88 runs, 17 SB, 3.8 fWAR)
- Josh Reddick, (.314/.363/.484, 13 HR, 82 RBI, 77 runs, 3.5 fWAR)
- Brad Peacock, (13-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 161 SO, 3.4 fWAR)
- Charlie Morton, (14-7, 3.62 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 163 SO, 3.3 fWAR)
- Lance McCullers, (7-4, 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 132 SO, 3.0 fWAR)
- Dallas Keuchel, (14-5, 2.90 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 125 SO, 2.5 fWAR)
Quality of clinching celebration: Joyous. It has been 16 years since the Astros won their division, so they were awfully happy. It was fun to see.
Season recap: The Astros thought they'd have a tight race in the AL West on their hands, but they lapped the field months ago. That didn't stop them from upgrading late in the season, including bringing in Justin Verlander … who might have been precisely what they needed.
Probable playoff lineup:
CF George Springer
3B Alex Bregman
2B Jose Altuve
SS Carlos Correa
LF Marwin Gonzalez
C Brian McCann
DH Carlos Beltran
1B Yuli Gurriel
RF Cameron Maybin
The Astros have all sorts of options, from Evan Gattis to Derek Fisher to Josh Reddick (assuming he's healthy). The above will certainly depend on the matchup.
Probable playoff rotation
ALDS Game 1: Justin Verlander
ALDS Game 2: Dallas Keuchel
ALDS Game 3: Brad Peacock*
*Game 3 starters haven't been officially announced yet; this is just my guess. You'll probably see Lance McCullers Jr. come out of the bullpen. Verlander could theoretically pitch a Game 4 if he had to.
- Lineup. Whew, look out. I'm sweating just looking at the top four.
- Depth. The Astros have options everywhere off the bench, to the point that they could bench Beltran, McCann, Gurriel or Maybin, depending on the situation. There aren't many matchups they can't counter.
- Flexibility. The Astros have shown an ability -- a desire -- to be unconventional when the circumstance arises, and the postseason is the perfect time to be creative. They'll take risks, they'll push the envelope, they'll be crazy. There's no right or wrong route to winning. There is only winning.
- Potential defensive issues. Depending on their matchups, the Astros have to be careful not to be caught with the wrong lineup out there at the wrong time.
- Backend of the rotation. If they're committed to keeping McCullers in the bullpen, that could potentially put a ton of pressure on Peacock to pick up a victory.
- Chris Sale. Seriously, they have to face the best pitcher in the world twice in this series. That makes for a small margin of error.
Best-case scenario: Verlander has a postseason for the ages, everybody hits and you wonder how they only won 101 games.
Worst-case scenario: Sale gets hot, the bats cool off and a funky move goes bad on the biggest stage of all.
Ramifications of a World Series title: It will be a much-needed emotional boost to the city of Houston.
Status: The Verlander acquisition appears to have changed everything. The Astros went from a team with great hitting and so-so pitching to a team that has an ace who might be a Hall of Famer. If they get past the Red Sox and Indians, they certainly will have earned it.
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