David J. Phillip
Playoff Entry: AL West champion.
Manager: Dusty Baker (second season).
Projected Rotation: LHP Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14 ERA, 125 Ks), RHP Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30, 167 Ks as rookie), RHP José Urquidy (8-3, 3.62 in 20 starts), RHP Zack Greinke (11-6, 4.16 in 30 games, 29 starts) or RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.21).
Top Hitters: 1B Yuli Gurriel (AL-leading .319, 15 HRs, 81 RBIs), 2B Jose Altuve (.278, 31, 83), LF Michael Brantley (.311, 8, 47), SS Carlos Correa (.279, career-high 26, 92), DH Yordan Alvarez (.277, 33, 104), RF Kyle Tucker (.294, 30, 92, 37 doubles).
Top Relievers: RHP Ryan Pressly (5-3, 2.25 ERA, 26/28 saves), RHP Kendall Graveman (1-1, 3.13 in 23 games with Houston; 4-0, 0.82, 10 saves in 30 games with Seattle), RHP Ryne Stanek (3-5, 3.42, 2 saves), RHP Cristian Javier (4-1, 3.55, 2 saves, 130 Ks, 101 1/3 IP in 36 games, 9 starts), LHP Brooks Raley (2-3, 4.78, 2 saves, 65 Ks, 16 BBs, 49 IP in 58 games).
October Glance: Heavy-hitting Astros are in World Series for third time in five years, looking for franchise's second title after winning 2017 crown later tainted by illegal sign-stealing scandal. For a scorned team labeled as cheaters, this is a chance at some redemption. ... Houston lost to Washington in 2019 World Series, dropping Game 7 at home as road team won every game. ... Only other pennant came in 2005 as member of National League. Astros were swept in that World Series by Chicago White Sox. ... Houston and Atlanta met in five NL Division Series from 1997-2005, with Braves winning first three and Astros the last two. But clubs haven't played since 2017. ... Houston this year became third team in baseball history to reach five straight League Championship Series, and beat wild-card Boston 4-2 in ALCS. Alvarez, who missed last year’s postseason while recovering from double knee surgery, took home MVP trophy after batting an ALCS-record .522 (12 for 23) with a homer, 3 doubles, a triple and 6 RBIs. ... After getting blown out in Games 2 and 3 while giving up three grand slams, Astros got their pitching straightened out and outscored Red Sox 23-3 over final three games. Down two games to one, trailed 2-1 going into 8th inning of Game 4 at Fenway Park before Altuve hit tying homer and Houston scored 7 runs in 9th. ... Even without injured ace Justin Verlander and 2017 World Series MVP George Springer, who left for Toronto as a free agent last offseason, Houston won AL West for fourth time in five years. Finished second to Oakland during pandemic-shortened 2020 season. ... Playoff-tested Astros dispatched AL Central champion White Sox 3-1 in Division Series with impressive display of 2-out clutch hitting that carried into ALCS. Tucker had 4 homers and 15 RBIs in 10 playoff games. ... Astros are minus top starter Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5, 3.16 ERA, 185 Ks) because of forearm strain. He allowed one earned run over 10 2/3 innings in two ALDS starts but exited Game 4 with tightness and was left off ALCS roster. He won't pitch in World Series, either. ... Rookie CF Jake Meyers was on ALCS roster but didn’t play due to shoulder injury. He was replaced Chas McCormick and José Siri. ... The 72-year-old Baker is first manager to win division titles with five teams after also leading the Nationals, Reds, Cubs and Giants to crowns. This is his eighth division championship and 11th trip to playoffs but he is still seeking first World Series title as a manager. Only other Series appearance as skipper came in 2002 with San Francisco, a seven-game loss to Angels. Three-time Manager of the Year did win World Series as a player with 1981 Dodgers. ... Houston’s longest winning streak this season was 11 games from June 13-24. ... Led majors with a .276 batting average, .339 OBP, 863 runs and 1,496 hits. Ranked second in majors by striking out just 1,222 times. ... 3B Alex Bregman returned Aug. 25 after missing more than two months with quadriceps injury. He hit .270 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 91 games. ... Pitching staff was fourth in AL with 3.76 ERA. ... The 38-year-old Greinke, a six-time All-Star and the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, returned from injured list on last day of regular season and hasn't pitched much over past 2 months. ... Correa, a free agent this fall, had one of his best seasons and led all position players with 7.2 WAR. His 2.9 defensive WAR also ranked first.