Just Give the Astros the Title, Altuve the MVP
Opinion-- This is an incredible time for a fan of any and all Houston professional sports teams. The Texans may have found their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson and the Astros are hotter than Terlingua chili.
Game one of the ALDS proved the latter.
Against the Red Sox's Chris Sale, arguably one of the best pitchers in the Majors right now, the Astros laid down a beating as big as Houston itself in the 8-2 win.
Sale went just five innings and allowed seven runs on nine hits in his postseason debut. The Astros demolishing of Sale marked the sixth time this season that the 28-year-old southpaw didn't record over five innings of work.
Why is that significant? Sale was a dominant force against opponents in the regular season, averaging almost seven innings of work per game with an ERA of 2.90.
In a press conference today, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch praised his veterans for their ability to "attack" Sale. The 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve, who better be the MVP, tagged Boston pitchers for three home runs in game one of the best of five series. That performance made Altuve the first ever Astros player to hit three home runs in a postseason game and put him on a list of eight other players, including Babe Ruth, to accomplish that same feat. Big time players make big time plays, right?
The Astros didn't rely solely on their veteran players yesterday afternoon, though. Alex Bregman, in his first postseason at-bat, took Sale to the Crawford Boxes on a 2-2 pitch in the first inning.
It wasn't the usual suspects, aside from your future MVP, getting the job done for Houston. Much like the entire 2017 season, it was the postseason debutant Bregman and the bottom of the order backing up Altuve's other worldly performance. The bottom half of Houston's lineup yesterday went a combined 5-for-15 at the plate with four RBIs.
That ability to hit well in any and every part of the lineup makes Houston a threat to any opponent they face in October.
Is Cleveland a threat? Yeah. Any team that wins 22 games in a row is a good team. Look at the 2-hit shutout they dealt to New York last night. But the Yankees are not the Astros. New York was streaky behind soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge. The Yankees are also extremely young. They will be a force to contend with in a year or so, but not in 2017. Cleveland has a cakewalk in their opening series.
The Astros send the second ace up their sleeve to the mound today in Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel plays well at home. Through 2017, Keuchel is 6-2 at home. This will be Keuchel's fourth ever appearance in the postseason and his second start at home. In his previous home start against the Kansas City Royals in 2015's ALDS, Keuchel led Houston to a 4-2 win and a 2-1 series lead that was ultimately squandered (I don't want to talk about it).
Keuchel is back to that same Cy-Young Award level of play from 2015 and should take the H to a 2-0 series lead before the series shifts back to Boston.
But its not just Keuchel and Justin Verlander leading the Astros pitching. They have something Houstonians haven't seen in a while: a good bullpen. Relivers Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, and trade deadline acquisition Francisco Lindor make the Astros 'pen mightier than any swords in the league. Even if a game is a close one in the eighth or ninth inning, Houston can rely on closer Ken Giles.
Giles has completed a save in 34 of his 38 save opportunities in 2017, locking him up for fourth most in the American League this year.
Houston has a team that can beat you up, down, and sideways. Don't be surprised if they're lifting the Commissioner's Trophy at the end of the postseason.