JOEL BLANK

As playoffs loom, what would be considered a success for the Astros?

For Justin Verlander and the Astros, is anything less than a title considered a failure? Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Hey Astros! It don’t mean a thing, if you don't win that ring—just ask the Rockets.  Houston set a franchise record for regular season wins and was one of the two best teams in the league. They had an MVP candidate, great veteran leadership, significant contributions from their role players and incredible coaching. Sound familiar Astros fans? The two teams mirror each other in many ways, but the Astros want to make sure there is one big difference. Unlike the Rockets, who stumbled in the playoffs and fell short of their ultimate goal, the Astros want to repeat their historic championship run.

As much as we love the ‘Stros, there’s a feeling that if the team is unable to repeat as World Series champions, it will be a huge disappointment. There is no more room for moral victories or being a hamstring away from greatness, this is a championship team—a team that brings home the hardware for their city and epitomizes being "Houston Strong." The tougher the opponent, the harder the fight and this team has fought out of some pretty deep fox holes to achieve amazing results for the team, the city, and Astros fans everywhere.

This is in no way meant to take away from the incredible regular season or to minimize the records per se. Some of the things we saw over the last six months we had never seen before, as the team made us forget about the possibility of a championship hangover and had us glued to the games to see what incredible accomplishment would be achieved next.  They won more regular season games than ever before, gave up less runs than any American League team has surrendered in a non-strike year since the designated hitter was implemented and allowed fewer runs than all but two National League teams have given up since 1974.

The starting pitching was ridiculous with Justin Verlander in the running for the Cy Young Award and Charlie Morton and Gerritt Cole joining him in the 200 strikeout club. If not for an incredible year by the Boston Red Sox, the Astros would be heavy favorites to repeat as American League Champs and get back to their second straight World Series. The team they are opening up the postseason against may be their stiffest competition in the entire playoffs.

The Cleveland Indians have the only starting rotation that can come close to matching that of the Astros, and they have added former American League MVP Josh Donaldson to an already potent lineup that features two of the top 10 players in the league in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.

Houston has an advantage in the bullpen as well as their defense and depth, but don't be surprised if this series goes the full five games. If it does and the Tribe comes out on top, we all will be extremely disappointed. The real question becomes, will you consider the entire season a disappointment if they fall short against the Indians? What if they advance but get knocked off by the Red Sox or Yankees? Is a runner up finish in the World Series enough for you to deem the year a success? It's OK if you answered yes to any of those questions. It's part of being a fan of a winning team that has given you a title and a trophy and a new set of expectations. Let's hope this years team brings it all home again and lets us shoot for the moon next year too!

Pitching woes continue for Houston

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: Twins 9, Astros 5

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After a disappointing series in Arlington to wrap up their recent road trip, the Astros were back at home to start a three-game series with the Twins on Monday night. Here's how the series opener went:

Final Score: Twins 9, Astros 5

Record: 13-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (2-2).

Losing pitcher: Brad Peacock (2-1).

Star of the game: Josh Reddick had a great night at the plate in the loss on Monday night, going 3 for 4 including an RBI single which at the time had Houston within two runs of the Twins.

Notes: For the third straight game, the Astros could not get out of the first inning without letting the opposing team take a lead. Brad Peacock got out to a rough start, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks in the top of the first, putting Minnesota up 2-0 before Houston could get to the plate. Former Astro Jason Castro extended the lead to 3-0 with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the second. The Astros got a run back in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single from Josh Reddick, and almost had another on a double by Tyler White, but the Twins were able to gun down Reddick at home plate to end the inning and keep it a two-run game at 3-1.

Peacock's three-run night was done after five innings, and Josh James took over in the top of the sixth, but he'd allow four runs to score to break the game open at 7-1 in favor of the Twins. Michael Brantley took one run back in the bottom of the inning, launching a solo home run to make it 7-2, then Houston was able to get two runners on in the bottom of the seventh to set up Carlos Correa for a huge three-run home run to make it a 7-5 game. Chris Devenski took over on the mound in the top of the eighth and would allow a two-out two-run home run to the Twins to put them back ahead by four runs at 9-5. The Astros would be unable to get any closer than that, getting no runs in the eighth or ninth to drop the first game of the series.

Up Next: Game two of the series will get underway at the same time on Tuesday night, with first pitch at 7:10 PM. Houston will send out Wade Miley (1-2, 3.32 ERA) who will go up against Michael Pineda (2-1, 5.30 ERA) for the Twins.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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