KNOW YOUR TEAM

Astros postseason guide for dummies and those who are casual fans

Jose Altuve is the "short one." Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It's playoff baseball time once again here in Houston. For some fans, Friday's ALDS Game 1 serves as a reward for surviving yet another marathon 162-game regular season schedule. All of the treks to the ballpark across scorching asphalt mid summer, all of the subsequent waiting in Minute Maid Park's woefully mismanaged entry lines, all the games caught at a bar or listened to in a car...all of it was for this. You can all put away your September baseball advent calendars and stock up on heartburn medicine, because you made it.

For other fans, the interest is moreso a “rooting” one and less of a “living and breathing” one. You may have checked the standings here and there and caught a game or two, but by and large it wasn't that big of a deal. If you identify with this description...well you are so in luck right now, your head should be spinning because I have you covered, friend. What lies ahead is the most definitive Astros Round One Playoff Primer you could ever be primed with. This is for the fan who knows that Jose Altuve is “the short one that can hit,” and still yells “Woo!” after the anything positive happens in the game. My goal here is to make sure you don't sound dumb talking to your friends about the Astros for the next week. Here we go.

The Matchup

The Astros will be playing the Cleveland Indians in a best of FIVE (not seven, that's later) series. Between the two, Houston had the better regular season record overall and therefore owns home field advantage throughout the series. The first two games will be played here in Houston, the next two will be in Cleveland, and--if needed--a fifth will be played back in Houston.

How Houston Made It

Pitching. Filthy pitching. I'm talking historically filthy, beautiful pitching. Their bats have been great as well, but the story this season has been about Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton laying the smackdown on major league batters night in and night out. The Astros set a franchise record for wins in a season and fended off an unreal late season push by the Oakland Athletics for their second straight AL West division crown.

How Cleveland Made It

Well, oddly enough, pitching as well. It could be argued that the Astros and the Indians have the two best starting rotations in baseball. Last year it was easily the Indians, but this year it swings more in Houston's favor.

So if anyone goes “The Astros are gonna win it!” You can sound smart by saying “Yea, we just have to watch out for the Indians pitching!” You just sounded crazy level-headed. Way to go.

The Indians cruised to an AL Central division title this season despite losing 12 more games than Houston. Much like the Astros case last season, there playoff berth was all but guaranteed, as they were the only team in the division to finish with a record above .500.

Astros Players to Know

Alex Bregman: Third Baseman. Went absolutely bonkers hitting the baseball in June and basically carried the Astros through the season offensively. Played his way into the MVP conversation, but probably won't win because the guys that will started a lot hotter. Have you noticed that when the Astros hit home runs they flash a “blue steel” pose at the nearest dugout camera? Bregman started that. And he's crazy clutch. Let's practice a scenario:

Bregman walks up to bat with runners on the bases. Take a sip of your beer, lean over and explain that “we're basically guaranteed a run because everyone knows how clutch Bregman is.” Be sure to be smug about it. Die hard baseball fans will only give you information in a smug declarative tone.

Justin Verlander: Pitcher. Ace. Pretty old, but still really good. Currently in the conversation for the Cy Young award this year. Verlander is the big daddy of the locker room, second only to the manager, and sometimes I question even that. Currently also the husband to Kate Upton, which at least four people will bring up. That one guy that showed up to watch the game only because people are there and thinks baseball is dumb? He's going to call him “Kate Upton's husband” because he thinks snarky humor is actually funny. Ignore him.

Jose Altuve: Second Basemen. 2017 AL MVP. The most consistent bat the Astros have and also the most perfect height for noogie. Altuve started the playoffs last season with three (THREE!!!) home runs in game one. Don't make height jokes while you're watching, they're overplayed and I already did it for you.

Gerrit Cole: Pitcher. Strikes everyone out. Even you. Voted best hair on the team by me, only slightly edging out outfielder Jake Marisnick and first baseman Yuli Gurriel. His nickname is “Cole Train,” so in game two pepper that in to sound informed.

“Atta boy, Cole train!” --you, post-strikeout.

Carlos Correa: Shortstop. Defensive stud. He will make throws that make you go “wait, what?” He's usually a good hitter, but hurt his back this season and has been hitting pretty poorly lately. Say something like “We really need Correa to heat back up. He's just been trying too hard and needs to stop trying to do too much at the plate.” No one will argue it, because you sound like you have a finger on the pulse of the team.

Dallas Keuchel: Pitcher. He's the one with the long, overly man-scaped beard. Showed his butt in The Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine. Wasn't bad. He doesn't strike people out as much as Verlander and Cole, rather he relies on fooling batters into swinging at bad pitches. They do, and it usually results in a ground out. He was bad in the beginning of the season, but leveled out after the all star break. Want to sound smart for game three? Drop this on your buddies: “He usually gives up most of his runs in the first inning. After that he settles in, so if we get through that we're golden.”

Indians Players to Know

Corey Kluber: Pitcher. Former Cy Young award winner. He’s filthy, and he will frustrate you game one. Nicknamed “Klubot.” I don’t really get it. His wife bet he couldn’t go a year without shaving so he didn’t until she gave in in late August. Not sure if that matters.

Francisco Lindor: Shortstop. He’s one of Cleveland’s biggest offensive threats. You’re going to be frustrated and not want to like him, but he’s actually a really, really great guy. Save your wrath for someone far more deserving. Someone like:

Trevor Bauer: Pitcher. Instigator. Bauer is a good pitcher, but also a weird dude who uses Twitter more than he should. Here's what you need to know about this gu. He had his team in the thick of a legit World Series Championship approach, but ruined his pitching hand with a drone. That’s a real thing. So too is his accusation of the Astros as cheaters. This is where you channel your boos. Also, call him Tyler. Trust me.

Jose Ramirez: Third Baseman. Fearsome hitter. On the fringes of the MVP discussion. Just like Lindor, you’re going to want to get amd at him but these two guys are just such great humans off the field, I can’t endorse that.

What to Expect

Fast, low scoring games. I say that, but last year we were all hyped up for Verlander versus Chris Sale and it ended up as an 8-2 Astros win. The Cleveland Indians are a team deserving of your concern in a 5 game series because of their elite pitching and the ability of their bats to get really hot really quick. I still expect the Astros to win in four and we can run this back and learn about some more baseball teams. Now go out there, talk baseball, and make me proud.

 

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Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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