Question #2: The cumulative health of the roster?
There is little doubt that the Astros are in injury prevention mode right now. There is no reason to push the pitching staff to the max and play the position players more than required to stay sharp. But the health of Carlos Correa and Charlie Morton is a different beast, and one of the important questions surrounding the Astros.
Since his return on August 10th, Correa has slashed a .176/.257/.224 batting line with just one home run and a 36 wRC+. That’s not good under any circumstances. For context, Correa had a .268/.352/.480 slash line through June 25th. It is quite clear that the back is still an issue for the Astros’ star shortstop. Hoping that additional rest would help Correa for the postseason, team management kept the age-24 slugger on the bench for the weekend in Toronto. The remaining games against Baltimore will go a long way in the decision process.
Then there is Morton, who has experienced right shoulder issues off-and-on since late August. The right-hander has thrown just 12 innings in September, but he is only 7 2/3 innings away from tying his career-high back in 2011 with the Pirates. His latest outing against the Angels caused some concern as his velocity was down in the first inning. But he is expected to make an appearance during the final series of the season, and the Astros do not sound overly concern based on manager AJ Hinch‘s comments to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.
"“We’ll make an assessment on if he’ll pitch again,” Hinch said. “I do expect him to, maybe another short stint, but all things are checking out positively.”"
A healthy Morton will go a long way towards the Astros’ hopes of repeating. Despite losing McCullers to injury in early August, Houston’s starting rotation (3.20 ERA, 3.31 FIP) is one of the best in baseball. Combine an effective Morton with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Dallas Keuchel during a five- or seven-game series, I don’t think there is a team that can trump the Astros’ starting rotation.