The Houston Astros are 3-0 in the 2020 MLB Playoffs. Running on all cylinders, this team has World Series aspirations in its sights.
In the Wild Card Series, the Houston Astros used phenomenal pitching to dismantle the Minnesota Twins in a two-game sweep. Houston’s bats woke up in game one of the ALDS on Monday, propelling the Astros to a 10-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
While three games is a small sample size, the Astros appear to be in full form during the 2020 MLB Postseason. Admittedly, this isn’t new territory for Houston. With two more victories, the Astros will earn a fourth-consecutive appearance in the ALCS, the longest streak since the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2001.
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During Houston’s current streak of three-straight ALCS appearances, the Astros moved onto the World Series in both 2017 and 2019. The Astros are still the team to beat in the American League. What’s surprising about this news?
Well, after the sign-stealing scandal fully unraveled following last year’s Fall Classic, the Astros franchise went into disarray. Former manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow lost their jobs and the entire organization was planted with a huge target on their backs.
There’s no question over the love lost from the rest of the MLB. Most notably, Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was handed an eight-game suspension at the beginning of the 2020 shortened season.
The Houston Astros struggled in the 60-game regular season, further adding to this narrative. Houston finished 29-31, the first time the franchise finished under .500 baseball since 2014. This resulted in Houston getting only the sixth seed in the AL Playoffs picture.
But, when the bright lights of the postseason turned on, the Astros appeared to flip a switch. Houston made quick work of the third-seeded Twins thanks to its pitching.
In the Wild Card Series, the Astros allowed only two runs in two games. The bullpen threw 9.2 innings in this series, allowing no runs and only three hits.
Houston’s bullpen carried over into the Astros’ game one ALDS victory against Oakland. En route to the 10-5 game one victory, Houston’s pen threw five scoreless and hitless innings in relief. The only baserunner was an 8th inning walk given up by Cristian Javier.
And yes, the bats woke up. Houston scored 10 runs while stars George Springer and Carlos Correa combined for seven hits in 10 at-bats. Alex Bregman and Correa both homered with Jose Altuve knocking in two RBIs.
Correa, who has been vocal about his motivation against Houston’s doubters in 2020, has been in MVP form. Correa is hitting .545 in three games, adding three home runs and five RBIs.
How does this Houston Astros squad compare to the 2017 and 2019 teams?
Houston is averaging 5.6 runs during this year’s postseason. In 2017, the year Houston won the World Series, the offense averaged 5.4 runs per game.
And, despite the small sample size, the Astros pitching staff is its best yet. In three games, Houston’s pitching owns a 2.00 ERA. This is more than two points less than the team’s postseason ERA in 2017 and 2019.
Another point in Houston’s favor is Oakland’s postseason struggles. The Athletics’ last appearance in the ALCS was in 2006. Since 2010, Oakland has made five postseason trips without reaching this championship round.
Fans are eager for a third edition ALCS matchup between the Astros and Yankees. New York also won its game one of the ALDS, against the No. 1 seed Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay has suffered similar postseason struggles as the Athletics. The franchise’s last ALCS appearance was 2008.
Yes, there’s plenty of baseball left in both of the ALDS series. But, early on, it seems like the Astros and Yankees, the AL teams with the most recent playoff success, have flipped on that October switch with the bright lights of playoff baseball.