BRING ON THE WHITE SOX

Here's how the Astros clinched their fourth division title in five years

The Astros were led by a powerhouse offense this year. Composite image by Jack Brame.

For the 4th time in five years, the Astros have clinched the American League West division title and are set to play the Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Division Series.

Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox this year, and will play them in the playoffs for the first time since the two teams met in the 2005 World Series.

The Astros look to have home-field advantage for the ALDS and need to win one more game to make this a reality.

As many of us start to look ahead to the postseason, let's revisit how the Astros got to this point.

This season has been an adventure to say the least. Over the offseason, the Astros lost their long-time leadoff hitter George Springer to the Toronto Blue Jays, and saw their ace pitcher Justin Verlander get Tommy John surgery in 2020. Replacing these two would be no easy task, but the Astros were able to become one of the best teams in the American League.

The club did not have any outright replacements for the aforementioned duo, but they were able to stay competitive with some players having career years, and others stepping up their game.

As usual, the Astros were led by a powerhouse offense this year. When healthy, the "Magnificent Seven" consisted of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker and Carlos Correa.

Gurriel and Tucker both had career years at the plate, and the former may receive the American League batting title on Sunday.

Other players such as Atluve, Correa and Brantley had consistent seasons at the plate, and Alvarez has been one of the best designated hitters in baseball.

Alex Bregman missed nearly half of the year with a quad injury, but since his return to the lineup, he is hitting .282 at the plate and is providing great offense at the top of the batting order.

This season, the Astros are second in baseball in runs scored per game, while also having the game's lowest team strikeout rate.

This offense could compete with anyone in the playoffs.

Houston also has a top-five pitching staff by runs allowed per game and team ERA.

Lance McCullers Jr. had his best season on the mound and could receive some last minute Cy-Young votes after his tremendous August and September. Barring something unforeseen, McCullers will be the Astros Game 1 starter on Thursday against the White Sox.

The Game 2 starter would most likely be Framber Valdez. He has an 11-5 record with a 2.98 ERA. The remaining two spots could be up in the air between the remaining four Astros' pitchers.

Luis Garcia is firmly in the Rookie of the Year mix after starting the season as a spot starter. The 24-year-old earned his way into the starting rotation and never left. He will be a great addition to the Astros' playoff rotation and would be a great pitcher to start Game 3.

The final spot could go to Zack Greinke, Jose Urquidy or Jake Odorizzi. Greinke has struggled as of late, but could be a back to his old self in time for the postseason. Urquidy and Odorizzi could come out of the bullpen for the postseason as insurance. It's never a bad thing to have too much pitching in the postseason.

This Astros team is one of the best in baseball and looks to make another deep run in the 2021 postseason.

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Composite image by Brandon Strange

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