To say this team has been a World Series favorite all year would be an understatement. This team has had expectations of winning it all since June of 2014. As predicted from one of the more famous Sports Illustrated covers in recent memory, George Springer is one of the faces of the franchise just four wins away from a World Series berth.
This Week’s Cover: @astros
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 25, 2014
Here are three things the Astros need to do in order to advance past the New York Yankees
Get 6+ innings out of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander
These are guys you should realistically plan to see twice in this series, but fans would love if it could just be once.
The top two arms in the Astros rotation figure to claim the first two starts of the ALCS, with Keuchel starting first, but things get pretty fuzzy after that. The Astros could go with Brad Peacock, the 6’1 right-hander who had a rock solid regular season but got tagged for three runs off six hits in 2.2 innings against the Boston Red Sox. Lance McCullers could get a shot, as could Charlie Morton who started game four of the ALDS.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 5, 2017
Starting Keuchel on short rest for game four could be an option, but the ideal scenario for Astros fans would be some combination of the five starters mentioned above dealing six strong innings each followed by the bullpen (which we will discuss shortly) taking over. Since that feels like a bit of a pipe dream, the safe bet is to hope from 6+ the first time around from Keuchel and Verlander and trust a team that won 101 games to support whoever is on the bump for games 3 and 4.
Avoid short rest. I hate the unnecessary urgency that gets created mid-series that makes a team think they need to win now. Don’t start Keuchel or Verlander on short rest unless it’s a win or go home scenario.
Don’t let the offense die out
It’s not just about hanging up 10 runs against their opponent by the time the final out is recorded. One of the things that is so threatening about the Astros’ offense is the fact they can jump on you with three or four first inning runs before the opposing pitcher can even realize what happened.
It’s a tall request for Jose Altuve to repeat his recent 8-for-15 performance which featured a three home run performance in game one, but anything is possible for the potential American League Most Valuable Player.
“I never hit 3 homers, what happened today was new for me.”- Jose Altuve on his 3-homer Game 1. pic.twitter.com/sDvnMUfZpO
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 6, 2017
Alex Bregman’s two home runs helped to cover up the fact he went 4-for-18 in the series with three strikeouts. Brian McCann has managed just two hits in 16 at bats. Marwin Gonzalez struck out six times against the Red Sox, batting .200 in the series (3-of-15).
This team just scored 24 runs across four games with names like that posting stats like those. If those guys pick it up just a tad in the ALCS, they can expect their season to extend for a few more games.
Get a mediocre bullpen performance
The Houston offense is so lethal that this almost turns into a “just give me two of the three” scenario. If the Starters can post strong outings that result in only an earned run or two, you can almost assume the Astros offense will take care their end given the current hot streak.
If the offense stalls out, or the starters struggle, the bullpen needs to at least be good enough to keep the game close and give time for the bats to go to work. That means Chris Devenski needs to return to his regular season form, and forget the rough ALDS outings that resulted in three runs in 2.1 innings of relief. Francisco Liriano needs to pitch at least to 80% of the expectations of him when the Astros made the trade for his services, and absolutely can’t afford to implode. Hopefully Ken Giles got all the bad pitches out of his system as well.