Let's discuss how the 2021 Astros remind us of the 2015 team

Jose Altuve is having a bounce-back season. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Remember when the Astros were hitting the reset button? They lost 100 games or more in three consecutive seasons in the transition between trying to stay relevant and hitting the reset button. After they made the World Series in 2005, they didn't make the playoffs for another ten years until the 2015 team broke through unexpectedly. That same team won a playoff single-elimination game against the Yankees and advanced to the Divisional round and lost to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals, 3-2.

That 2015 team wasn't expected to do much. It had been ten long arduous years since they had made the playoffs (a World Series loss to the White Sox in 2005). This team hadn't won more than 86 games in that dreadful stretch. The reason I see similarities between this team and the 2015 team is because no one thought either team would do anything.

For example: nobody thought the 2015 team would make the playoffs or compete. Not only did they make the playoffs, they lost a close series to the eventual World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals, in a close 3-2 series. I'm not saying that Astros team would've gone on to win a title that year, but they would've made some noise. That team also had 11 guys hit double-digit home runs with five of those 11 hitting 20 or more. They weren't expected to do anything, yet they managed to exceed expectations.

I can see this '21 team doing the same thing, or more. Nobody picked this year's Astros to do much. Most picked them to finish second in the AL West and miss the playoffs. While it's very early in the season, they look like the favorites to win the division despite their current losing streak and issues with COVID contact tracing. Whether they can compete for a pennant and make another World Series is another question. Do I think they can make it that far? Yes. Will they prove me right? That remains to be seen. Jose Altuve is having a bounce-back season. Yordan Alvarez is trying to return to his rookie season form. Carlos Correa is in a contract year and trying to earn that big payday. There are several young pitchers on the staff trying to prove they belong as well. When you factor in the veterans and young guys here all working to prove themselves, it makes for an interesting mix.

This team, in my opinion, has the ingredients to go further than that '15 team did. The pitching staff is better, and so is the lineup. The prior team hit .250 with a 3.57 team ERA. While I don't think the team ERA will be much better, I do think this team will/should hit better than a paltry .250, especially with the lineup they have. The ERA won't look much worse, but given the younger guys they have to rely on, I'm not sold on them being so dependable. Overall, I'm totally looking forward to what this team will do and thoroughly looking to be surprised. Who knows. We may be looking at another...I'll stop here before I jinx anything!

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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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