Houston Astros: Trend – Who’s Hot, Who’s Not (Vol 8)

Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports /
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With less than two weeks left in the season, the Astros are close to clinching another AL West title.

Despite Friday night’s disaster, the Houston Astros have been generally been playing some good baseball. Houston is 10-5 their last 15 games and have won their last five series. This uber-talented team, one that has certainly had some highs and lows, appears to be revving up just in time for the playoff run.

The Astros will finish off the weekend series in Oakland, then close out the season at home against the Tampa and Oakland. Houston will likely need to win at least seven of their last eight games (and sweep Tampa at home) if they want to try to get the AL  No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Five of the last six AL Pennant winners (Houston 2X, Tampa, Kansas City, Boston) were No. 1 seeds so having the home-field advantage throughout the AL would be… advantageous.

The only question is do the Astros actually want to be the first seed in the AL? The top seed would mean a ALDS meeting with either the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or the Toronto Blue Jays. All three are loaded with talented and having been on fire as of late (NYY – third in OPS last 15 games, Boston – fourth, Toronto – sixth).

Meanwhile the Chicago White Sox, with all their big stars and strong pitching staff, have been coasting and floundering much of the second half the season and might be the path of least resistance for the Astros. Then again, with Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendricks anchoring the back of their bullpen, Chicago wouldn’t exactly be a weak spot.

Whoever they play, Houston just needs to get to next weekend healthy. Everyone reading this please cross your fingers.

Team Trend

Houston Astros are doing modestly well at the plate lately. Over the past 15 games, the Astros are fifth in the majoring in OPS (.831), seventh in batting average (.269), sixth in slugging (.478) and second in home runs (27). The Astros have scored seven+ runs eight times and 10+ runs five times during this span of games.

What makes Houston’s offense great is the depth and consistency. Houston has rarely ever been outside the top 10 for these major offensive categories for any period of time during this season and are currently posting these really solid numbers with no Michael Brantley in the lineup.

The Astros pitching has been maintaining a “bend don’t break” motto for most of the season and continues to be that way thus far in September. Over the past 15 games, the Astros are 11th in the majors in ERA (3.87), 10th in WHIP (1.25), seventh in opponent BA (.228) and ninth in strikeouts (117). These are pretty solid numbers if factor in the recent struggles of Zach Greinke (more on him later) and that disaster, gross, nasty, barf-o-rama bullpen game from Friday night.

Houston will go into the playoffs not having the best 1-2 starting lineup punch (LA Dodgers have that) or even end-of-the-bullpen arms (Congrats to the White Sox), but the Astros will arguably have the most flexible and “frisky” pitching staff.

McCullers-Valdez-Garcia-Greinke as your playoff starters is solid, and having Urquidy, Odorizzi and Javier as long-reliever options might give Houston a competitive advantage in those middle innings. And if Kendall Graveman can remember how to pitch like Kendall Graveman, the Astros late inning combo of Graveman-Stanek-Pressly is certainly imposing for any postseason opponent.