Is the clock striking midnight for the Astros?

It is funny how the lack of expectations coming into the post-season for the Astros has slowly turned into a small pile of expectations after they emerged victorious from the first two rounds.

There was really no reason to believe the Astros would get through either of the first two rounds other than the random chance of three-game and five-game series and perhaps the lack of post-season success by their two opponents. The Twins and the A’s were both much better regular season teams than the Astros and while the Twins continued a long streak of playoff losses against the Astros, the A’s had rebounded from an ALDS opening game loss to the White Sox and a 3-0 deficit in the dramatic third game to win their first playoff series since 2006. On top of that the Astros had suffered a slew of injuries and a stack of underperformance and had barely made it into the post-season.

But the Astros ground out two Wild Card wins against Minnesota and got their swagger back (seemingly) in taking three out of four from Oakland in the ALDS.

After two losses against the Tampa Bay Rays, the swagger has been replaced with a bit of frustration. The script that won the first two series has flipped. The Astros won Game 1, 4-1 against the Twins due to an error by Jorge Polanco that led to a 3 run ninth and took the wind out of Minnesota’s sails. An error by Marcus Semien in the first game against the A’s led to 4 unearned runs and flipped a deficit into a lead on the way to a critical 1-0 lead in that series. The obvious contrast here is the mis-play between Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel that led to 3 unearned runs and a 3-0 hole in the first inning of the Astros 4-2 loss in game 2 against the Rays.

The Astros have scored three runs total in the first two games of the ALCS, going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They were not great with RISP in the ALDS (12 for 36) but good enough, especially with 12 HRs sprinkled in the mix and averaged 8.25 runs per game against the A’s. They have had plenty of hits – outhitting the Rays 19 -10 in the two games, but they have been unproductive. In the series against the A’s and Twins hard hit balls found the holes. In the Rays’ series to date, most of the hard hit balls have found gloves.

The Rays’ ability to stem most of the Astros’ hard hit balls has two components. First is almost prescient positioning by Tampa Bay, which is undoubtedly tied to excellent scouting/metrics by that franchise. The second is a bit of luck. Yes, you put people in certain positions due to the likelihood of someone hitting in that quadrant, but you certainly don’t plan on them hitting the ball at 100 mph within a step of the fielders. This again is a bit of a flipped script as the Astros in their 2017 WS run rode the success of extreme shifting to an advantage over the opposition.

The Astros improbable playoff run is riding on the backs of the next two “home” games in San Diego. Lose them both and it is over. Split them and you are down 3-1 and on life support. Win them both and perhaps the miracle continues.

The Astros have gotten good pitching so far in this series, but they need the bats to wake up or be prepared to be packed away for another unusual off-season.

Two weeks ago we did not expect the Astros to be here. But now that they are here, it is hard to not be disappointed a bit if it ends soon. Humans are funny creatures.

47 comments on “Is the clock striking midnight for the Astros?

  1. Great read Dan. I think you hit the nail on the head on how most of us feel. The Rays are doing just enough to win while the Astros are making costly mistakes, and not hitting with RISP, and just some overall bad breaks. I would be wrong if I said I would not be disappointed if we lost but it would be a lot easier losing to the Rays rather than the (spit) Yankees. In otherwise good news, the Braves beat the (Spit) Dodgers last night and as much as the Braves were our nemesis several seasons back, I’d root for them any day before I’d root for the Dodgers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m lined up with you Z. The Rays play good, fundamental baseball and most importantly are not the (spit!!) Yanks. The only reason I would want the (spit!!) Dodgers to win would be so we could shut them up in the WS, but that is a long ways away right now.

      I wonder if that radio guy who said the Astros are cheating in the playoffs again can explain how all that cheating led to 3 runs in the first two games of the ALCS.

      Tough row to hoe now. Need to win 4 out of 5 from a team that is playing well and is frankly better than us.

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  2. This series has not been difficult for me to deal with to date. I’ve only watched part of both games rather than making sure I’ve scheduled myself to be free and available to sit in front of the television for the duration. Probably a good thing.

    We’ve gotten excellent pitching. We’ve hit the ball better than the other guys. But we are playing a very well prepared and confident group of professional baseball players. We have not been as good overall. I also think that if we pitch and hit the ball again tonight analytics alone won’t beat us. We’ll have to help the Rays beat us.

    If our guys are ready to play a clean game, the series should go to 2-1.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After the errors they had yesterday you have to wonder if that is stuck in their heads….I certainly hope not. Trying too hard can lead to over thinking and then mistakes start piling up. These guys need to remember WHO they are, and WHY they are here. Nearly every one of these guys won the ALCS last year, and there’s no reason why they can’t at least show up to do it again.
    They’ve only played 60 games….not 162 games, so they shouldn’t be tired.
    Then what is it??? They haven’t heard thousands of voices in the stands boo them, they haven’t been targeted by opposing pitcher’s intentionally hitting them. When this season started off we had Verlander, Greinke and McCullers in the rotation and Valdez was added later. Now they have NO Verlander, It appears that Greinke has gone south and you never know which McCullers is going to show up. That leaves the only guy who has shown up every 5 days and pitches like an Ace Yordan Alveraz. Our pitching can’t hold a candle to the Rays or Yankees pitchers…we know that, but we need to be very grateful our “baby” pitchers have REALLY stepped up. If they lose…they lose. I just hope Jim Crane realizes the quality of guys he has on this team and steps up to lock up Springer, and offers Brantley another 2yr contract. Tucker has cemented his place in the outfield….it might be time to think about giving his some job security as well. I’m not sure if I’m going to watch tonight’s game I lost my mind watching yesterday’s game.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. All I want them to do is play great ball tonight and win.
    Then we can talk about tomorrow’s game tomorrow.
    One thing I am encouraged about is that we have the basis for a good young pitching staff for next year and beyond.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Some stuff ….
    – A reminder as OP mentioned – the Astros play in Prime Time tonight and tomorrow at 7:40 on TBS. While the Dodgers – Braves play in the early game. I am surprised.
    – Kershaw apparently has a tweaky back and will be pushed back to Game 4 instead of Game 3 in that series
    – Astros have Jose Urquidy vs. LHP Ryan Yarbrough tonight and tomorrow the Rays send out RHP Tyler Glassnow with his Thor locks against Mr. T. Beady for the Astros. I’m guessing TBD is actually named Zack Greinke unless his arm is laying on the locker room floor.
    – It will be ironic if after getting thwarted on so many screaming mimi’s the last couple dayst, if the Astros break out with hump back Texas leaguers or seeing eye singles through the infield.

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  6. I don’t recall seeing Altuve make such bad throws on routine plays before, and Yuli normally makes those difficult plays look easy. Except for the errors and hitting with RISP, we have played well enough to win.

    We need a win today and hopefully score lots of runs to use up the Rays’ bullpen.

    Garneau starting today instead of Machete:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. EXACTLY what I said this afternoon! Those doubts creep back in your head and it leads to another game of errors. Sorry….but I turned the game off when the guys let them score 5 unearned runs. Trust me Altuve WILL wear these two games for a very looong time. I know the old saying “shake it off we’ll get ’em tomorrow” is the usual thought, but there ain’t anymore tomorrow’s. Shame it all happened because of errors. Becky⚾

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  8. Kermaier and Renfroe made the kind of catches that Marisnick made for us the past few years (not that I would want Jake back).

    I might be inclined to have Altuve at DH and play Aledmys at 2B, for at least the next game.

    Having All-Stars and a big payroll doesn’t always win in the postseason. Ask the Dodgers, who also lost again.

    Out of 38 teams that were down 0-3 in a seven-game series, only the 2004 Red Sox came back to win 4 straight, so it’s not impossible. 26 other teams that are no longer playing would love to be in our position.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Actually, stating the Astros were getting blown out of the series was not fair. No, they did not play a clean game again. And that was enough. But what’s happened to them has got to be much more painful than getting blown out. In a 162 game or even a 60 game season, the breaks, the errors, the BABIP likely even out, but not in a seven game ALCS. We’ve had our shots and our guys have not mailed it in, but the Rays have played great defense, gotten outs when they needed them and taken advantage of extra outs. And unfortunately, we can’t really control where batted balls land. That’s the biggest battle we’re losing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reading lots of stuff about Astros and Karma. If this way of thinking were true, then the Twins must have done something really bad because Houston is getting whipped by Tampa the way Minnesota got whipped by Houston.
    This is not Karma. That explanation takes away the credit that Tampa’s team should be getting. They are playing great baseball, and pressuring the Astros into making mistakes.
    Jose Urquidy pitched his heart out last night, but the better team won. The Astros have scored four runs in three games and have not been able to get runs off of Tampa’s starting pitchers. It’s pretty simple.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m thinking about yesterday’s game and there were at least 5 top notch plays by the Rays – the catch up against the wall, three diving catches in the outfield, the pitcher jumping back to snag a high chopper and throwing from his knees. I think I’m missing some infield plays too. Normally a couple of those would not be made, but they all were and it seemed to kill a number of rallies.
    The Rays have been fantastic and opportunistic. The Astros are a Bridge too Far in this series – just can’t get there.
    It is not karma or the Astros would have been sitting at home before the playoffs or after the first playoff loss. They are an under .500 team that is losing to a team that won the equivalent of 108 games this season (2 out of every 3 games). They have been in each game. They have had opportunities, but the Rays have made the plays.

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    • We knew the Rays were going to be spectacular on the defensive side. Just like you can’t afford to give the other team extra outs, you can’t miss opportunities against a team that is going to take some outs away. Give the Astros credit for battling back. They couldn’t quite get some runs home, though, and it makes the result look more lopsided. I’ve been impressed by our pitchers this series. It would be nice to see the players bounce back in game 4 and maybe make it a series. In the other league, isn’t it great watching the Dodgers lose?

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I was reading some of the commentary on the Astros play off dilemma (AstrosDaily.com) and as far as I’m concerned most of the negative writers can (insert whatever you wish to say about them). We have a good team and I think we’re all surprised that we got this far with all the adversity they have had to deal with. And don’t think for a minute that we won’t see it again next year. As for this year the team has done pretty well considering the loss of our pitching core and out ROY DH. Decision time will loom soon about what to do in the off season. I’m proud of the guys and hopefully if we falter in the ALCS, we’ll be right back there again next year. But as RJ said, “it ain’t over till it’s over” so maybe the wheels of fate will turn in our direction. I believe we’re about to enter the “Click era” as the Lunhow era will become a distant memory. I look forward to it.

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    • Yeah, there is a batch of customers willing to throw their Astros under the bus pretty quickly. They were on Dusty while we took 3 of 4 from the A’s. Most of them don’t really grasp the game all that well though and are likely just passing through.

      Dan, is it okay to give our guys a shout out for making it into the Supreme Court hearing discussions today? Might be a highlight of this series. The gentleman from Nebraska does not our boys.

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      • Yeah daveb, my wife, who is a lovely person and not a sports fan heard the Senator from Nebraska beating on the Astros, using them as an example of people knowingly, breaking rules, and saying terrible things about them and my wife was livid.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. It was a tough win – and Pressly drives me nuts – and yes happy for Jose. Greinke gave it his all
    Javier was fun to watch. George murdered his HR. Good game
    All hands on deck tomorrow

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  14. Rockets GM Daryl Morey resigned. So, in the last year for the three major Houston sports – all three teams (all of which were in the playoffs last year and the Astros and Rockets this year – Texans in the middle of the season) have replaced head coach/manager and GM. I do not remember this ever happening all in one year, even when the teams were doing poorly.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Luis Garcia – the rookie who never pitched above A ball before this season will be starting what Dusty Baker is calling a “bullpen” game as most everyone from the bullpen will be available, other than Cristian Javier who threw 2+ innings yesterday.
    John Curtiss will start for the Rays – but will likely only last a couple innings as he is normally in the bullpen. He threw 2 scoreless innings against the Astros earlier in the series, but had given up 5 runs in 2.1 IP against the Yankees.
    It will be a fascinating chess match today of bullpen usage.

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    • Luis H. Garcia was my first listed in Sept 10, 2019 fanpost article as simply needing an offseason to develop. He wiped out the competition in QC and Fay’ville. Not long thereafter, someone told me Keith Law rated him Astros#3. Not even I would go for that.

      Well, today, here he is. He has eclipsed Abreu and Ivey (two I’d call ahead of him) in the short run. Bravo!

      Want to get a jump on next year’s “could be” hopefuls? Maybe one or two will turn into a Jose Urquidy or Blake Taylor.

      It’s a crude work, and if I had d’rothers, there’d be 20 more names on it, like Bellozo Maquare and Lopez…

      https://www.crawfishboxes.com/2020/10/14/21515775/the-vaunted-arms-are-coming-astros-2021#comments

      Enjoy the game, all!

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  16. My son Tom sent me an interesting screen shot from ESPN. It showed the most times pairs of teammates had homered in the same game in playoff history:
    – Carlos Correa and George Springer – 7 times
    – Jose Altuve and George Springer – 6 times
    – Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman – 4 times
    – David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez – 4 times
    – Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome

    Amazing that the Astros take the first three spots and remember that Lofton was a one time Astro.

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  17. Brantley with a 2 run single – Astros 3-1 in the third.
    Astros already used 3 pitchers through 3 innings – though Paredes should be pitching more.

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  18. I have to say this once a year. I love Jose Altuve, but he’s not the smartest baseball player on the planet. He sure is making contact right now though.
    What a remarkable job by a bunch of no name arms against the pitching staff everyone keeps talking about.
    Yes Dan, Baker, along with Coach Strom made the right moves all day. Again.
    It’s amazing how many big homers our guys have hit in post season play.
    Any second now, hopefully before it’s too late, Bregman and Yuli are going to hit. And Tucker too. We are due to put some runs up on the board. I don’t care who’s pitching.
    This miserable season has turned into a lot of fun. But of course I still have no expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Got to admit that this was a big TEAM effort from the players, coaches, and Dusty. Like some we’ve doubted his decisions but he sure has been masterful in his decision making. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Astros are the first team ever to start a playoff game with a homerun and have a walk off homerun! Some stuff from Springer and Correa will be going to Cooperstown! I thought Robert Ford was going to have a stroke calling that walk off homerun from Correa! Going back to the 90’s…the saying
    “Here come the Astros” gave new meaning today! What else can you say about all these “baby” pitchers! Josh James appears to be hurt….maybe if we are lucky he will set back and take the rest of this season off….I can only hope.

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