Let's discuss 3 overriding keys for Astros to closeout Red Sox
After losing games 2 and 3 to the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Astros came back to win two straight games in Boston and lead the series 3-2.
The final two games (if necessary) will be in Houston.
The Astros could finish off this series on Friday and advance to their 3rd World Series in 5 years.
To accomplish this task, Houston must rely on their best two assets thus far, hitting and solid work out of the bullpen, with a little help from their starting pitchers.
The bats staying hot
The best thing about this Astros team has been their ability to come though in big situations at the plate.
The "Magnificent Seven" have all had great moments this postseason.
Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker lead the team with three home runs each, and Yordan Alvarez has the hottest bat in the lineup with a .367 batting average.
The 24-year-old slugger had a tremendous game Wednesday when he went 3-5 and drove in three of the Astros 9 runs.
He and Yuli Gurriel have been the best bats this postseason, and look to continue to be a menace at the plate once the series shifts to Minute Maid Park.
Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley have started to heat up at the right time as well.
If the Astros continue to hit the way they have been, the Red Sox will be in trouble.
Since Eduardo Rodriguez tapped his wrist after striking out Carlos Correa in Game 3, the Astros have outscored Boston 18-3.
It's not as if Houston needs any extra motivation to return to the World Series, but it never hurts to have a little bonus incentive to beat an opponent.
The bullpen needs to bend not break
Manager Dusty Baker has been forced to use his bullpen a lot, with multiple starters unable to go deep into games.
With the exception of Framber Valdez's dominate Game 5 performance in which he pitched 8 quality innings, the Astros have been forced to use guys like Cristian Javier, Brooks Raley, Yimi Garcia and others more than they are used to.
Although they have given up some runs, the bullpen has yet to cost the Astros a game during the ALCS.
Games 2 and 3 were lost in the first few innings from poor starting pitching, and the bullpen did their part to not make it any worse.
Except for Ryne Stanek, who pitched the 9th inning Wednesday, the bullpen will have two full days off before they face the Red Sox Friday.
Greinke, Jake Oddorizzi and Javier could all eat major innings in relief outings if necessary.
The rest will come in handy as they may need them again to eat innings for Game 6 and 7 (if necessary).
Starting pitchers must do more
Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke failed to pitch more than two innings in each of their starts. Garcia is slated to take the mound Friday and looks to bounce back after an abysmal outing.
In both of his postseason starts, he has thrown 3.2 innings and has a 24.55 ERA.
Needless to say there is nowhere to go but up for the 24-year-old pitcher.
If he could last five innings, it would take pressure off of the bullpen arms and give the Astros a better chance of closing out the series Friday night.
Houston has all the ingredients to beat Boston this weekend and return to the World Series once again.