Next Friday the Astros open up the playoffs at home, against the Cleveland Indians.
When the Astros play Game One of the ALDS this year, there will be a different feel at Minute Maid Park. Last year when they opened against Boston fans where still on edge if this team had the talent to win it all. This time it’s different, baseball fans everywhere understand that the Astros can become the next baseball dynasty.
The Astros are one of the most complete teams in baseball. Their rotation and bullpen are better than last year, and their lineup features four all-stars who know how to produce in big games. There is nothing bigger than postseason baseball, the hunt for October is over, and the stage is set in the American League.
The Indians come into this hoping their addition of Josh Donaldson and their dynamic duo Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can lead them to a post-season run. Last year the duo hit a combined .105 in their ALDS loss to the Yankees. This year the duo are the first infield teammates to pass 7.5 wins above replacement the first to do that since Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in 2004. All stats via Baseball-Reference.
Lindor is batting .280 on the year with 37 HR’s, and 90 RBI’s, the three-time all-star and gold glove winner has put together an impressive 2018 season. He has carried this Indians team into contenders since the all-star break back in July.
Ramirez has put up consistent numbers as well batting .274 with 38 HR’s and 104 RBI’s, Ramirez was an early candidate for MVP but has since dropped out of the conversation due to the rise of Alex Bregman and others. Ramirez ranks top five in the AL in home runs, RBI’s, runs, and on-base percentage. He is one of the best third basemen’s in the league and alongside Lindor they can be a one-two punch for the Indians.
The Astros come into the game as back-to-back AL West champs. They were in a battle for first with the most surprising team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. The Astros will be led by Alex Bregman who has stormed into MVP contention The third baseman is batting .289 with 31 homers and 103 RBI.
The first year all-star has turned into a star for the Astros and will be a building block for the future. Bregman alongside other all-stars George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve will determine how far these Astros go in the postseason. If these players produce the way, they did last the team has a chance to be back-to-back World Series Champions.
The pitching probable’s will likely be CY Young candidates Justin Verlander going against Corey Kluber. Verlander was lights out in the postseason last year posting a 2.47 ERA and a 0.56 ERA in the ALCS against the Yankees. Verlander has the most playoff experience on the roster and will look to shut down Cleveland’s dynamic duo.
Kluber was a disappointment for the Indians last year allowing nine runs in his only postseason start last year. He struggled against the Yankees hitters in the first game, and the Indians couldn’t recover. Kluber has fared well against the Astros this year, the Astros team average against him is .249.
This game will likely be a pitchers duel. Whichever team jumps out first will have the momentum against the opposing pitcher. Look at both of the starters to go deep into this game. The bullpen could likely decide the game in the later innings. The Astros bullpen has been better as of late and is one of the keys to another World Series run.
The Astros have the advantage over the Indians who wouldn’t be in the playoffs in any other division. The Indians are full of talent, and it will be a struggle for them to take down the reigning champions. The Astros will look to keep their postseason momentum and hope to prove they are the best team in baseball again. But, they need to take this team seriously. Every pitch means something in the postseason.