Yes, the Astros could still win the ALCS, but the bats have to shake the frost that has cooled them off.
Small sample alert, but here is how most of the Astros’ hitters are performing by OPS in the ALCS.
- Alex Bregman – 1.214
- George Springer – .862
- Jose Altuve – .701
- Carlos Correa – .657
- Marwin Gonzalez – .647
- Yuli Gurriel – .647
- Josh Reddick – .530
- Tyler White – .250
Paints a rather bleak picture, right? Well, sort of. Small samples can flip on their heads at any moment. But the Astros need their bats to come alive in Game 4. If not, the season is on life support.
Since the team’s two-run showing in the third inning of Game 2, the Astros have been held to three runs and nine hits. That’s not optimal when going against an 108-win team. To make matters worse, the Astros’ pitching staff hasn’t exactly held down the fort. Gerrit Cole struggled in Game 2 followed by a up-and-down Dallas Keuchel in Game 3. The bullpen couldn’t keep the score tied in Game 3 between Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna. All of the things that the Astros did well during the regular season and the ALDS has vanished.
By the way, stealing signs, if true, isn’t the key reason behind Houston winning 103 games. Or besting Yu Darvish twice and winning the World Series against the Dodgers last year. That is usually decided by talent and a fair share of luck, which the Astros have plenty in the past two years. All 30 teams, I strongly believe, do steal signs through various means. See the Apple Watch story from last season between the Red Sox and Yankees as a recent example. But if technology was involved in any sort of capacity from this year’s incident, then that should be properly addressed by Major League Baseball.
Oh, this was a post about the Astros’ offense, right? Sorry, I tend to stray from a topic every once in a while.
One solution to consider is the configuration of the lineup. How about flipping Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve? It makes some sense as moving Bregman behind George Springer and before Altuve could force the Red Sox hitters to not pitch as cautiously around the Astros’ best hitter in 2018. With Altuve on-deck behind him, then the Red Sox are less inclined to walk Bregman. That’s just my two cents.
Also, this series is where we’ve seen the impact of not having a healthy and productive Correa. If he was producing up close to his full potential, the entire lineup looks different. Opposing pitchers couldn’t throw cautiously against hitters like Bregman or Altuve if they saw Correa at full strength behind them. He would most likely bat clean up behind Altuve with Gurriel hitting fifth. Instead, Correa has been moved down the order while Gurriel has entered into a recent slump as the clean up hitter.
Houston’s bats have quite the task in front of them in Game 4. They’ll need to support the pitching staff, which hasn’t done itself any favors in the past two games. Charlie Morton is making his first appearance in a game since September 30th in Baltimore. He’s only faced 14 batters since September 23rd. If he and the bullpen aren’t sharp, then the lineup will need to pick up the slack. And this isn’t like the 2005 Astros when their lineup disappeared at the wrong time in the World Series against the White Sox. This year’s club had a 110 wRC+, which was among the best in baseball. But this year’s club isn’t like the 2017 edition, either.
Whether due from regression, injuries, ‘less juiced’ baseballs, better competition, or some combination of all factors, the 2018 lineup hasn’t shown the same knack for comebacks like they did last year. If they were going to do anything about that perception, Game 4 is a good place start.