Unlike last season, the Astros have the experience of playing on one of the biggest stages in baseball. So, what does this year’s ALCS mean for the club in the present and the future?
Rewind to roughly one calendar year ago, and the Astros were staring at matchup against the most storied franchise in baseball history: the Yankees. In the end, Houston would emerge victorious in seven games hard fought games to advance to the World Series. It was quite a time if you were an Astros fan. In fact, it remains quite a time to be an Astros fan.
As the team prepares to challenge the Red Sox in this year’s ALCS, the lessons learned from last year’s trip could be invaluable. For one, the Astros should be used to this kind of high profile stage. The ‘core four’ of Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman all had big moments in last year’s postseason. They’ve already had big moments in this year’s ALDS against Cleveland. The same thought applies to the pitching staff, especially the starting rotation. The bullpen is kind of different, though. Basically, the ALCS is basically a glorified small sample when anything can happen, but they know what it takes to win.
For team ownership and the front office, this trip to the championship series is another point of validation. The ultimate validation was the World Series title last year, but the Astros have been insistent on creating a sustainable run over multiple years. Regardless of the outcome, Houston’s future remains bright heading into 2019 and beyond.
But key questions are approaching on the horizon like the contract status of Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, Charlie Morton, and Evan Gattis. Fast forward over the next few years and the same question will eventually apply to Springer, Correa, and Bregman. That said, there isn’t a definite reason why Houston couldn’t compete for more championships over the next three years. While championships are the ultimate goal, there is something desirable about contending on a near-consistent basis. Ask the Cardinals if you’re curious.
So, the future is bright. How about the here and now?
Well, the Astros will not have home field advantage in this series. Thanks to the five-win edge that Boston had over Houston in the regular season, the Astros will play Game 3 and 4 in Houston along with a Game 5 if necessary. To their credit, the Red Sox offense is likely a touch above the Astros right now based on the regular season numbers.
Astros – 109
Red Sox – 112
Not by much, though. The pitching staff results was basically all Houston, all season. But the postseason is a funny thing as, again, small sample can rule the day.
The performance of the Astros’ lineup could hold huge ramifications for the series. And when I say the “lineup”, I actually mean Correa and Gonzalez, two heroes from last year’s playoff run.
Regardless of the result, the Astros should be proud of their accomplishments this year. While another championship is the ultimate goal, there is something to be said for consistency. But the here and now, like the future, is bright. Let’s see if that light can last until November.