Astros 2018: The week in review, the playoff week ahead


The week of 9-24 through 9-30 in review

The Astros had a 4.5 game lead and their magic number to clinch the division was 3 to begin the week.

So their job was to end this pennant race as quickly as possible and that is what they did. After two wins on Monday and Tuesday against the Blue Jays, the Astros clinched late night when the Mariners did them a favor and eliminated the Oakland A’s in extra innings. The Astros dropped a game with a victory hangover to end the Toronto series, but then beat up on the hapless Baltimore Orioles 3 out of 4 games to set a new team record for wins with 103.

The week of 10-1 through 10-7 in a preview

Later in the week, we will post an in-depth look at the match-up between the Astros and Cleveland Indians that begins this Friday at Minute Maid Park. Suffice it to say that in 2017 the Astros may have dodged a bullet when the Yanks came back from 0-2  to eliminate the Tribe in the ALDS.

Player of the Week:

With the Astros clinching, a lot of players saw time and a lot of players had days off this week. Josh James and his 5 innings, 1 run outing in the game that took their magic number to one was a consideration as were both strong outings by Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Roberto Osuna. But this week we give it to a player, who may have been THE leader in the 2017 playoffs and who could be an under the radar contributor this time around, Brian McCann. He only played in three games, but he scored three runs, hit two homers and knocked in three runs during the week. A hot bat by such a clutch player could be critical to their success going forward.

Stat focus: Their Best Record Ever – 103 wins

Yes, the previous record of 102 wins was set in a 1998 season that ended in a first-round playoff loss to Kevin Brown and the San Diego Padres. It has been pretty impressive to see this team overcome the injury problems affecting George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to put up more wins than in 2017. But it can be all undone in a quick series, so now the real season begins.

Pop Song That Should Have Been a Hit

“The Weight” by The Band – Everyone of a certain age knows this song, even if they don’t know it’s title and even if they wonder about why there is a band called The Band. It was released back in 1968 and zoomed all the way up to a weak #61 in the charts. Jackie DeShannon (What the World Needs Now) put out a version about the same time and it only made #55.

If you’ve ever seen the movies Easy Rider or the Big Chill you’ve heard The Weight. If you listened to FM album-oriented stations in the 60’s – 70’s you’ve heard The Weight. It is Americana music with an early southern rock touch brought to you by a bunch of Canadians and one American from the south, Levon Helm. It starts out with an iconic first line “I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling about half past dead.” It continues along with biblical imagery and eclectic characters and takes the listener through a 4+ minute slice of life.

So the regular season is in the rearview mirror. What do you see ahead?

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94 comments on “Astros 2018: The week in review, the playoff week ahead

  1. I think the Indians will be a fun series. Offense, defense and starting pitching pretty similar. Definite nod to Astros on bench and bullpen. Our boys need to apply the same formula they did last year in the playoffs: make the Cleveland starters run up the pitch count and get to their bullpen. But our hitting has been much more inconsistent this year, and it seems we’ve seen much less plate discipline. Last year in the playoffs the Astros really cut down on their normal rate of base running stupidity : let’s hope for that result again.

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  2. Well here we are again.
    Already dreading the anxiety / anticipation that’s coming.
    The Indians are a good team similar to ours. If our guys can just focus on the moment we can do this.

    You got me on the song this week. Had to look that one up.

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    • Well it was sent from my phone so I had a long to to it today and told it if it didn’t stop “auto-incorrecting” me that I would have start using voice recognition instead of typing. No telling what kind of responses that will bring.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s a long talk with it, not a long tu-tu. Isn’t that what ballerina’s wear. Or it could have been a tooty-too. That’s what us kids used to play with when we had no toys. We took an empty roll of toilet paper and would run around going, “tooty-too, tooty-too”.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. -I don’t think the Indians and the Astros have ever met in the postseason. I don’t know what to expect. Looking at Cleveland, I can’t figure out why they didn’t just run off 105 wins.
    -I remember The Weight. I am an old FM 100 KILT original listener. I remember the station debut, when it was 24 hours of nothing but rock. It was fabulous. My wife and I were painting a new apartment and we kept the music playing all day and all night.
    -Watched David Stearn’s team win today. I liked that. The Nationals are out, the Cardinals are out, the D’backs are out and the cubs are a wild card team. The NL! Sheesh!
    -But nothing tops the fact that the Angels were the shoo-in #5 team in the AL and that was a giant dookie pile. The Oakland Althetics. I said: The Oakland Athletics! When you start to think you’re smart about what is going to happen this week, remember the Oakland Athletics and then add “I think” to every prediction you make this week. It will be crazy, I think.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I mentioned my pain before I left on vacation. I finally leveled with the Mrs. in Red River and went to the doctor in tremendous pain when we returned. I damaged my sciatic nerve and am now dealing with all the meds and their consequences, with exercises and facing the chiropractor, if he ever answers his phone.
    I have guidance, encouragement and my lover manages my meds, which she has to do for herself, too. I have a long way to make a comeback to get back into the gym, but I am down under 190lbs, so there is that. There is pain like I never felt before, but now I know why. Hopefully, I can put this behind me.
    Hope all of you are feeling well.

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    • Feeling your pain OP. I’ve been dealing with sciatica for a few years now due to spinal stenosis.
      The exercises do wonders.
      Praying you get relief very soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Uh oh……back problems are the #1 problem all of us “old folks”!! My son in law is a chiropractor, but they live in Iowa! Getting old ain’t for sissies ((sigh)).
      They (city of Houston) are having ALL kinds of stuff downtown starting tomorrow! You certainly will be called tonight when I say my evening prayers 🙏 I gotta tell you, I’m as “nervous as a bad girl in church” about this weekend!
      I hope you’re up and doing well SOON!! Becky⚾

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  5. OP, I hope you find peace from that pain. I was walking along a quiet stretch of beach the other day and got the sudden urge to take off in a sprint. Then I smiled a bit of a chagrined smile and continued walking. Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, MLB.com, for leaving the reigning WS MVP off your list of the 50 top players in the playoffs. I can think of nothing that could drive a young player who has proven himself on baseball’s biggest stage more than this.
    I’m sure his fellow SS is not laughing inside either at being left off. I would be seething.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Surely Paul Molitor can do better than being shoved into a closet in Minnesota. Am I allowed to call the Twins front office a piece of crap? OK, I won’t call them a piece of crap.
    Good luck to the Twins with that group of players. This is the same geniuses that traded their closer in the middle of a playoff chase that they ended up winning. Here’s hoping they end up with another Gabe Kaplan as their manager. They deserve everything they get.
    No wonder Cleveland can waltz to the playoffs. The Twins are #2 in the division.

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    • Personally I’d rather see Josh James pitch, but then again I don’t get to make that call. I’d have somebody in the BP if the Indians are making solid contact.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. i just saw on the astros portion of the espn site that a new nickname may be coming for bregman. if he plays well enough and earns it i’ll be happy to call him the new ‘Mr. October’.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. op, last fall i had a big tree fall in the yard, my hotwater heater blow up, my dishwasher die, my computer die and my roof need relief from encroaching oak limbs. i tried to deal with all of these things as fast as i could. bad move. i discovered i am not 30 anymore, caused major problems with the sciatic nerve. took me months to get over. moral of the story – take it slow and easy/steady. you’ve already made a great start in losing the weight. take care and good luck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. If the Stros can get by a very tough Tribe squad in a short series, I definitely like our chances. I got tix for game one and game five — the first time I’ve put ANY money in Crane’s pocket since the Bud bribe. But like I said before, I am very surprised that Crane turned out to be a decent owner (translate: open his wallet and take care of the players versus the previous pattern of the overt greed).

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Excited for playoff baseball to start tonight!! Gonna be watching 2 games simultaneously.

    If Freeland can get through 6, I am taking Rockies over Cubs in a close game. If he doesn’t get through 6 I’m taking Cubs in a blowout.

    I’m taking A’s over Yankees with Severino getting knocked out early. With 1 starter and 10 relievers on the roster I doubt any Yankees hitter sees an A’s pitcher more than once. I look for Treinen to go two innings for the save. I’m taking A’s 5-2.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The official Astros site tells you a lot about this weekend games. Non of the Indians have ever faced Verlander….and, non of our guys have ever faced Klubler! I find that odd!!

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    • That’s impossible Becky, Verlander pitched in their division for ever
      Guys like Reddick and McCann and Altuve had to have faced Kluber

      The site must be wrong

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      • I thought so too….but it didn’t show any players on our team and the Indians facing this match up. I’ll try to get Brian Mc Taggart to fix it

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      • We have faced Kluber twice this season. He has struck out 17 and has a 1.37 ERA. We lost 1 and came back in a dramatic rally late in the second one. I don’t think that Verlander pitched against them this season.

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    • Kluber has started 10 games against the Astros with a 6-3 record and 2.83 ERA.

      Verlander has started 52 games against the Indians with a 20-24 record and 4.71 ERA.

      Becky, you must be seeing playoff stats and not regular season stats.

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  13. Playoffs got off to a great start tonight with Cubs/Rockies. I like that broadcast booth with A-Rod and Jessica Mendoza: they are not afraid to tell you what they think will be coming next. But tonight they missed almost every prediction late in the game. That wise old sage Joaquin Andujar said it best: “one word says it all in baseball: you never know.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can’t speak for the Indians, because I don’t follow them on a daily basis.
    But I do follow the Astros and I’m familiar with them.
    I don’t consider last year’s performance in the playoffs as a basis for comparison to last year’s results, either, because this is a completely different Astros team.
    This year’s team has struggled to hit at times, so I anticipate them to struggle some of the time hitting against a good Indian’s starting rotation.
    This team has pitched well most of the time and I expect that, too. Our bullpen is one of the best in baseball and I expect that to be the same.
    The Astros have been one of the cleanest fielding teams in the AL and I expect that to be the same.
    The Astros have been one of the best road teams in baseball history and that would be real comforting if they played as well at home.
    What I like about Houston in this series is that they have been hurt a lot lately and had to shake up their lineups to accommodate those players some time off to heal. They have had to put players in different positions and some of those players weren’t hitting.
    But the Astros strongest players are rested and healing and the Astros’ staff has had all week to prepare their team for this series and I will put that staff at the top of the heap as far as their preparation skills.
    When the Astros take the field Friday, I think they will field the best team they have fielded all season. I expect them to be prepared and to keep pressure on Cleveland from the first pitch. I expect the Indians will be ready to go also and that this series will be great.

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    • I noticed a couple of things last night. We take our outfield defense for granted sometimes. The Rockies and Cubs don’t have anything close to the outfield talent that we have.

      The speedster guy (Gore) that scored the tying run for the Cubs in the 8th, had to go to the plate later. I think he’s now 1 for 19 lifetime trying to hit the ball. I’m not sure about using a roster spot on a guy that can only run fast.

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      • Terence Gore has an eight year minor league batting avg. of .239. and has 1 hit in 5 major league seasons.
        Miles Straw has a minor league batting avg that covers 4 seasons at .303. He has had 51 outfield assists in 4 years vs 8 out field assists for Gore in 8 minor league seasons and Straw has consistently covered more ground in the outfield in his career according to baseball reference.
        Gore has -0.1 WAR in 63 major league games and Straw has plus 0.2 WAR in only 9 games. Straw has 3 hits in a 9 game MLB career including a homer and Gore has 1 single in his career.
        Last night Gore swung and missed at ball four in extra innings when he would have been on 2B on the first pitch to the following hitter.
        Miles Straw is not Willie Mays. But, he is so much better than Gore, there is no comparison.

        Liked by 1 person

      • davebdisclaimer: I was not lumping Straw into the Gore category. In fact I might have said at some point here that Straw is an excellent outfielder with a potentially solid enough bat that may make it easier for us to justify not paying Jake what he’ll require next year.

        1OP, your little comparison illustrates nicely the depth in our system compared to that of the Cubs. They have a guy in their system that runs fast, but that’s all. Our run fast guy does a whole lot more.

        It will be interesting to see if Straw is one of the 14 in the dugout on Friday afternoon.

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      • 1OP, excellent comparison on Gore and Straw. I think Straw definitely makes the team. His speed will be a huge weapon that can give you 1-2 bases every time he steps in the game. We probably don’t win game 5 last year without having speed to bring in the game at the end.

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  15. Just some thoughts:
    -There are some guys on the Indians who have really big numbers hitting off Collin McHugh. I’m just sayin’.
    -If you have McCullers in your bullpen as a longer inning alternative, is adding James to the mix as an extended inning guy a good idea. Especially at the expense of another late-inning guy like Harris or Peacock. I really like Josh James, a lot. Do the Astros see James as a short inning or multiple inning guy both?
    -Is Straw duplicating Marisnick on the bench? Or is Marisnick going in late for defense and Straw strictly for pinch running and extra innings.
    -It was interesting to read the guy above talk about the Astros top 4 in the lineup in the WS like they were almost iconic. We know them well, but they are on our side so we don’t have that fear like he was talking about.
    -Remember how I said last offseason that if we traded for Stanton we would draw 3 million fans a year and he would pay for himself? We drew 2.98 million without him. Baseball attendance league-wide dropped 4% in 2018 while the Astros were up 24%.
    -Puig guaranteed LA fans a World Series win the other day. I instantly remembered him in the dugout watching the Astros celebrate last fall.
    -Reading others thoughts about the Astros actually gives me more confidence about the team I saw get shut out the last day of the season. It’s really hard to let go of the bad games I wish I hadn’t watched. My team is world champions after 56 years and now I’m spoiled rotten. Spoil me more, boys!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great……Yankees are pounding the A’s. I think we all knew the A’s, just didn’t have the pitching to keep going. Watching the game you KNOW the Yankee fans are making so much noise you can’t think. Im going out on a limb, but the Brewers are a dang good team, they will be in it.Thank you vewill1 I have the complete set of last year’s series….and that game will go down as possibly the best game ever in World Series history! Thanks again!

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    • Boy, I sure had it wrong. I though the score would have been something like A’s 7, Yankees 2. Knew it was going to go south when Hendriks couldn’t throw a strike and the A’s kept flailing at pitches out of the zone. This sure wasn’t the A’s team that played lights out after the AS break.

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  17. Do you wonder why our games start in the afternoon while the Redsox/Yankees get prime time billing? Of course we know the answer to that one.

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    • It’s because the Yankees and Red Sox hardly ever get to play each other, right? It almost never occurs more than 19 times a year.
      And, it’s better for all the people in the flyover states who will have something better to do than just milk cows and plow fields. And all the people on the west coast and Japan will now get to see real baseball before the sun goes down. The only other important teams are the Dodgers and Cubs and one of them is now relegated to the minors, now that they were eliminated by the Lansing Brewers, right?

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  18. Listen I think we all will concede that if New York, Boston, Chicago and LA did not exist, we could just fold up all sports, nay – fold up the whole country because nothing exists beyond those walls.
    Here, wait while I throw up in my mouth….

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    • Folding up the country in half would lay the east coast and west coast on top of each other. Wouldn’t that be something. You could have Disney World, Disneyland and Washington, DC all close to each other. Fantasy World all on the same coastline, until it fell into the water.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Friday will be a party day in Houston. Might as well call a half day holiday like they do down here. Nothing is going to get done after lunch anyway. Lot’s of folks playing hookie! Wish I could be downtown tomorrow.

    By the way, my unofficial count has our guys 17 and 8 in day time home games. That’s a positive stat if accurate!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Do we really have to wait until tomorrow afternoon for this game? I’m tired of watching these other teams…let’s get to the good stuff!

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    • What is pretty amazing is the fact that we are probably leaving behind a better bullpen than we took last year. This season’s arms are so much better and won’t be the weakness we experienced last year.

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      • It all comes down to what is between the ears and their nerves – guys who were very good during the regular season last season (Gile, Harris, Devo) were not during the playoffs….

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  21. I feel bad for Rondon. He had a beautiful season that turned completely ugly in September. I had not realized his BA against was .459, his OPS against 1.190. It was the right decision. We’ve got a great 25 man roster for this first round.

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    • Daveb, I had to go check your stats. I did not realize just how bad Rondon was down the stretch. I also did not realize just how good Harris was down the stretch: August .195 BAA/ .513 OPS/ .882 WHIP and September .125 BAA/ .317 OPS/ .714 WHIP.

      When you look at the 2 it becomes pretty obvious why they went with Harris.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Stunned isn’t quite the word to use for me with the bullpen. If you told me that Smith, Rondon, Devenski and Peacock would still be on the team but not on the playoff roster two months ago, I would have called you crazy.
    But, I did say I thought Devenski’s future was in doubtand Peacock’s slider was not finding the plate. But Rondon and Smith? Wow! For some reason, Rondon’s delivery was causing him to jerk his fastball and he just could not throw it 98 and get it over the plate. He especially couldn’t get it over the arm side of the plate and that made his slider more predictable to hit, because when LH batter saw a pitch a little outside they knew it was a slider.
    But you have to hand it to Luhnow. Those two were signings for substantial salaries over the winter and yet he agreed to trust his front office when they told him they were not the guys to take for this playoff series.
    This also shows huge confidence in LMJ and James in the bullpen and in Morton’s health.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. We need to turn Houston (and Kingwood!) Orange tomorrow! I’ll be wearing my Springer shirt for the first game, and one I ordered last winter just for this occasion orange as well! Some of the pitchers that were left off are dissapointed and I feel bad for them…..BUT here is the list of starters in Hinch’s, bullpen and they are pretty dang good!
    Josh James
    Valdez
    Perez
    McCullers
    McHugh…not a starter this year, but he can pitch multiple innings. WHAT A NICE PROBLEM TO HAVE!! I was shocked along with you guys about Rondon.
    GO ‘S T R O S!!!!!

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  24. Obviously the best version of The Weight is by Aretha Franklin with Duane Allman playing some beautiful slide guitar. The version by King Curtis is also great. And any of the Allman Brothers Band live versions are great. Especially the one from NOLA Jazz Fest 2007.

    Oh and there’s some baseball on soon.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Dan. I read almost every day. Don’t often get to post anything timely …. but couldn’t miss a chance to mention Duane
        For baseball activities I’m still here though!
        Wishing you all well

        Liked by 1 person

  25. -I’ve decided that the only way I can personally repay MLB for broadcasting all the NY/Boston games in prime time is to not watch any of them. That is the only power I have. Fortunately, all of my favorite shows are back on in prime time so I have those to keep me entertained.
    -ON my vacation I decided to drive up on a volcano. Straight up the side of the outside of the mountain they circle you around the edge with no guardrail and a view of the plains below. It was absolutely terrifying. I knew I was afraid of heights, but I did not know how afraid I was. When I got to the top I could not even make myself look at the amazing view. Last years playoffs were like that trip up the mountain. I was terrified every time the Astros were in trouble and sometimes I had to leave the room and not watch. I would actually go to MLB Gameday, rather than watch live.
    This year, I feel differently. The Astros are in the playoffs and they have a WS Championship in their pocket, our pockets. I don’t think another ring is life and death for me like the first one was, but I guess I’ll find out this next week or so.
    -With all the good RH pitchers on the Indians, I think Marwin and Josh are going to need to deliver some offense.
    -I think Josh Donaldson being on the Indians is pretty amazing, but I still wonder about Kipnis playing CF. I would like to see baseballs flying over his head into the Astros bullpen and into Brocamonte’s mitt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was the same as you last year. Like a horror movie that you don’t want to see but can’t look away.
      I think it will be easier this year but ya never know.

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  26. I don’t see any real holes in the 2018 version of the post season Astros. If our guys produce as they did in September, we’ll be in the thick of things, especially if they don’t have to carry Correa at the plate. I’d really like to see a crisp win against Klluber today. In a five game series, we really only get to experience a small glimpse of an opponent. On the flip side, we’ll know pretty quickly if our guys are ready to defend.

    Liked by 2 people

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