5) Capitalize on Runners in Scoring Position
The Astros finished the regular season eighth in runs scored with 737. While nowhere near a number to slouch at, this is still a substantially lower number than their 920 runs in 2019 and 863 in 2021, a mark that led all of baseball. Regular season success in those seasons aside, their bats ran cold in the brightest of lights, pushing across 15 total runs in their eight World Series losses.
If the ‘Stros are to secure a second World Series title, a repeat performance of the erratic, all-or-nothing nature of their offense that has shown up in their previous Fall Classic trips cannot be afforded.
Four wins away from a title, the Astros must continue to do what the offense has prided itself in doing over their last five seasons—pass the baton and hit with runners in scoring position.
The Astros came into the 2019 World Series having hit .268 on the season with runners in scoring position. They led baseball with a .272 mark last season. Their .270 average this season tied for 2nd. As the Astros demonstrated in their last two trips, July hits with RISP mean nothing in October and November.
The 2022 Dodgers finished the regular season with a league-leading 111 wins and a league-leading .272 batting average with RISP. Los Angeles got sent packing by the Padres in four games after going a combined 2-26 in their three losses with RISP, one of those hits being a bunt that didn’t drive in a run.
Regular season track records don’t result in rings. The reigning champion Braves can attest as they too were eliminated in the NLDS after stranding enough runners to populate a deserted island. Houston must stay the disciplined team they are, work walks and keep constant traffic on the basepaths. Once occupied, Houston must do damage. Timely bombs, base-clearing doubles into the gap, and Bermuda Triangle bloops that find the outfield grass must result in crooked numbers on the board.
Jose Altuve has shown signs of regaining form at the top of the order, now three for his last seven with some hard hit outs in the mix as well. Altuve is fresh off of his best season since winning the MVP and possesses a proven track record in October with 23 career playoff home runs. I’d find it more likely Altuve repeats his 2017 ALDS Game 1 showing with three big flies in one game than that he continues to slump.
Assuming the Altuve of the regular season and previous playoff seasons is back, Jeremy Peña stays hot in the two hole, then the big bats in the middle of Yordan, Bregman, Tucker, and even a recently resurgent Yuli Gurriel must find ways to bring them around.
If the Astros’ bats once again go cold, they’ll join LA, Atlanta and the Mets as a 100-win team scratching their heads and wondering how they exited the playoffs without a ring. A three-run homer here and a two-run double there, however, and Houston can finally get back across their last playoff hurdle…calling themselves champs once more.