For most of the last six year run of dominance, the Astros have rolled into the postseason without many questions. They've had some injuries here and there, but by and large, they've possessed a dominant rotation, overpowering lineup, and a shutdown bullpen on their way to deep runs in October.
This year that's not the case. While the Astros may very well make a deep run into October, they'll have to overcome some serious questions along the way.
Let's look at the five biggest questions facing the Astros heading into the playoffs?
Question 1: Who is the Game 3 starter?
Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander are set in stone as the starters for Game 1 and Game 2. Once Game 3 rolls around, it's anyone's game, no pun intended.
We made the case for J.P. France last week, but he responded with five runs in 4.1 innings against the Royals last time out. In his last five starts, France has an 8.87 ERA.
Hunter Brown has absolutely nasty stuff, and just had arguably his best outing of the season last time out. He didn't go deep, but Brown finished five hitless against Oakland, striking out seven. He was efficient, requiring only 78 pitches to do it.
Yes, it was against the A's, but that same lineup pummeled JV the night before. If Brown has command and doesn't beat himself, he's borderline untouchable.
And where does that leave Cristian Javier? He's had a nightmare of a season since the calendar turned to June, but he's the same guy that started a combined no-hitter in the World Series and was unbeatable last year in October.
Does Dusty go with his best performer this season, the nastiest pure stuff, or the most erratic with proven playoff success on his resume?