What's standing between Astros and a three-peat, no one saw coming

If the Astros are able to finish the deal and win the division for the third straight year, one of the biggest questions about the postseason is which pitchers deserve to be starters.

While Dusty Baker loves his veteran players, the numbers don't lie. JP France has earned his spot in the playoff rotation behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander.

The sample size is just too large with Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown at this point. They haven't consistently pitched well in several months. And while one of these guys will likely be one of the team's starters in the postseason, they can't pitch in front of France based on performance.

Plus, with the Astros lead in the division down to 1 game, Dusty needs to put his best offense in the lineup when Brown and Javier are pitching, so the team has a chance to win the game. Both pitchers are lucky to get through 4 innings while only giving up 4 runs at this point.

Let's look at the numbers. Javier has an ERA of 6.21 over his last 7 games, and Brown has given up a WHOPPING 24 earned runs in his last 30 innings. Yes, you read that correctly.

We have all accepted that Martin Maldonado is going to catch Framber and Verlander, but Yainer Diaz and the Astros “Death Lineup” must be employed when Javier and Brown start.

Otherwise, the team is not being given its best chance to win. And we don't want to hear from Dusty about how Maldy can get Hunter Brown straightened out by calling the pitches. How did that work out in his last start? He gave up 6 runs in 4.2 innings and lost to the Padres.

And after two losses to the A's with Framber and JV on the mound, the team's margin for error is almost nonexistent at this point. Winning the division for the third consecutive season now appears to be in jeopardy.

The team has to approach these games knowing they're going to have to score more than 5 runs to win with Javier and Brown on the mound.

Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down.

Watch Stone Cold 'Stros every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.

And listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk

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The Houston Astros managed to win the AL West once again, and while things got a little nerve wracking toward the end of the season, when it mattered most, the 'Stros took care of business.

It certainly didn't hurt to get a little help from the Mariners, beating the Rangers 1-0 on Sunday, paving the way for the Astros to secure the division. Rangers fans and members of their broadcast team were none too pleased with the Diamondbacks resting some of their starters on Sunday.

But let's be real, with the division on the line, the Rangers couldn't even manage to score a single run on Sunday against Seattle. That's why they're playing in the Wild Card series, not because of how Arizona approached Sunday's game.

So what did we learn during these must-win games over the last week? A lot was made of GM Dana Brown's comments on the team's flagship station. Brown was hoping manager Dusty Baker would put the best offensive lineup on the field. Yainer Diaz did not start a single game of the Diamondbacks series. But Chas McCormick played every game of the Mariners and Diamondbacks series, except for the finale against Seattle, after being hit in the back with a fastball the night before.

Michael Brantley played in two of three against Arizona, so he appears to be an option Dusty will turn to moving forward. And with the Astros only scoring 1 and 2 runs in two of the three wins against the D-Backs, the Astros need every bit of offense they can get.

Plus, we discuss how getting extra rest for Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu, and the bullpen could pay huge dividends for the club. And don't look now, but Jose Abreu is getting hot at just the right time!

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion.

And be sure to watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportMapHouston's YouTube channel.

Listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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