Here's how the Astros stack up to the Chicago White Sox

The teams are pretty evenly matched. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Hello October. And almost hello to a fifth consecutive season of Houston Astros' postseason baseball. They struggled most of the last week with the offense lapsing into limp noodle mode, but it's the full season picture that matters and it's a pretty picture as this Golden Age of Astros' baseball now has banked four division titles in five years. The 2021 Astros are clearly not as good as their 2017, 2018, and 2019 predecessors, but that doesn't mean they can't win the World Series that the 2018 and 2019 squads did not. The Astros remain a very good, balanced, and deep squad, which means getting to a third Fall Classic is a definite maybe.

When my column posts next Friday, the Astros will be either up or down a game in their best of five vs. the Chicago White Sox. Over their last 55 games the Astros are just 29-26. Over their last 46 games the White Sox have gone a mere 24-22. Doesn't matter, carrying momentum into the postseason is generally mythology. The Astros won the season series over the White Sox five games to two. That doesn't matter either. A bad team can beat a good one three out of five, so a good team against another good team? No one knows how it will go. Securing homefield advantage should help the Astros' cause. At home this season the Sox are 51-27. On the road, 40-41. All that's needed to get games one, two and (if necessary) five at Minute Maid Park is one Astros win over the A's this weekend, or one White Sox loss to the Tigers.

The teams are pretty evenly matched. The White Sox have given up the fewest runs in the American League this season. The Astros are second. The Astros have the better lineup though the White Sox are plenty potent. In fact the Sox have the top two OPS guys in the series in catcher Yasmani Grandal and center fielder Luis Robert. Both missed big chunks of the season to injury but are healthy now. Since his return August 9 Robert has hit .365 with 11 home runs in 40 games. The 24 year old Cuban has outperformed 24 year old Cuban Yordan Alvarez, no mean feat.

It's a managerial matchup to delight the elderly, with 72 year old Dusty Baker pushing the buttons for the Astros while Chisox skipper Tony La Russa turns 77 on Monday.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Rays are the team to beat in the American League. They really are amazing winning as much as they do, spending nickels and dimes against the dollars of many others. The Rays' full roster payroll is within a million or two of what the Astros are paying this season to just Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Michael Brantley. The Rays await the Wild Card game winner, the two participants for which remain up in the air. With three games left, the Yankees lead the Red Sox and Mariners (!) by two games, with the Blue Jays one game back of Boston and Seattle. A four way tie would be fabulous.

Texans head to Buffalo

The Texans play at Buffalo Sunday. That is all.

Just kidding! But around here this matchup doesn't exactly generate breathless anticipation. Or much anticipation whatsoever, with the Houston Lambs likely being led to the slaughter. It's almost hard to believe that just the season before last the Texans beat the Bills in a Wild Card round playoff game. Remember the Houdini-esque play Deshaun Watson made in overtime to set up the winning field goal? Hey, at least the Texans are unlikely to blow a 35-3 lead in Buffalo. Still too soon? I note from time to time that the only way to pull off a gigantic upset is to be a gigantic underdog. The Texans have that going for them Sunday with the Bills favored by 17 or 17 and a half points, a whoppingly large number for an NFL game.

Buffalo is a bonafide Super Bowl contender. The AFC runner-up last season after a 13-3 regular season, the Bills should win in the 13 neighborhood again. Quarterback Josh Allen made a massive leap in 2020, hiking his completion percentage a full 10 points from 59 to 69. An expansion team that could poach any QB in the league certainly would take Patrick Mahomes first. Allen might be the second choice.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Five unbeatens left in the NFL. The 3-0 Cardinals are at the 3-0 Rams Sunday. If wondering (or not), J.J. Watt in three games with the Cards: 0 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, in on six tackles.

2. Quite the story surfacing this week claiming that Bill O'Brien at one point was trying to get himself fired by the Texans so he could position himself as Bill Belichick's successor with the Patriots.

3. Among these three specific Carlos Correa options: Bronze-he retires from baseball to try quarterbacking the Texans Silver-Astros lose the ALCS but Correa resigns for seven years Gold-Astros win the World Series and Correa moves on.

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