If you told an Astros fan before the season that the Astros would be the AL West Champs they might have yawned at you and said “But of course”. If you told them they were in for a tough struggle and would only pull it out in the last week of the season their interest might be piqued by the tale. And if you told them the Oakland A’s were their closest challengers and outplayed the Astros for more than 1/2 the season they might have gone “Huh?”
The Astros won the title last night long after their win against the Toronto Blue Jays was in the books. The Seattle Mariners, who put up the best fight against the Astros in the first half of the season came roaring back from an 8-5 deficit in the 8th inning to tie the game against the A’s last night and won it in the 11th on a 2 run walk off by Chris Hermann.
The Astros were a team led by pitching this year and has had to weather hitting regression and injuries to some of their best players to clinch this title.
In 2017, the question about the team was could they stand up to playoff pressure having played most of the season with a huge divisional lead. In 2018 the questions may be, can they win if their offense goes MIA and can they win if their big three George Springer (thumb), Jose Altuve (knee), and Carlos Correa (back) are sub par nursing those injuries?
Well, they do have the big one, team MVP Alex Bregman and late bloomer Tyler White and lately hitting Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel. They have pitching studs like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, a crafty veteran in Dallas Keuchel and lots of bullpen help with Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and a playoff cast to be determined. Where do vets like Tony Sipp, Chris Devenski, and Will Harris fall? What about mercurial Lance McCullers or big time youngsters Framber Valdez and Josh James? Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado are in – Max Stassi must be out. What about 7th game World Series hero Evan Gattis? Does Jake Marisnick, who was hurt last playoffs, make it this time?
There are a lot of roster questions to be answered, but only one goal. Eleven more wins!