Is Houston the team to beat even if they don't make a move at the trade deadline?

What if the Astros stand pat at the deadline?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros fans, are you OK with the team not making a move before the only trade deadline in Major League Baseball this season? Especially after the rumors have been hot and heavy that the team was looking to add a starting pitcher or two to the roster for depth and security as they head towards the postseason. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have been open and active in discussions with teams around the league, as well as the media in admitting they would like to address the bullpen and add another catcher as well as at least one front line starting pitcher. Luhnow has been very hesitant to part with one if not both of his top prospects in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker. In a market that has been less than stellar in terms of the quality of pitchers available and the number of teams willing to participate in trade discussions. So what if the deadline comes and goes and in passing your Astros fail to add another front line hurler to the rotation? Will you be disappointed? Frustrated? Will you still believe in this team and its chances to win a World Series? Although I have been lobbying for weeks that the team needs to go out and make a move for an arm, based on what I have seen lately around the American League, I still believe the Astros can get to the fall classic even if they don't make a move.

Yuli Gurriel Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The reason I still have so much confidence in this Houston team is actually two-fold and it starts with how good this team has been playing and how many games they continue to win even as they fight through the last few lingering injury issues they have been forced to deal with for the last few months. Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve have snapped out of early-season struggles at the plate to once again putting up big numbers and high levels of production at the plate. George Springer returned from a lingering hamstring issue to pick up where he left off putting up all-star numbers and Aledmys Diaz and Carlos Correa are finally back from their injuries to take their rightful place in the lineup and batting order. Rookie Yordan Alvarez has been a huge boost to the middle of the order and provided a much-needed power surge, while Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley have provided reliable, steady and strong starting pitching at the front of the rotation. As much as the bullpen has had a few slip-ups lately, overall the numbers for the season are good as they rank as one of the better bullpens in baseball. At the time of this article being published, Houston had the best record in the American League and was in a great position to compete for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if the team fails in attempts to add depth and improve the roster, there is no reason to believe that they don't have enough to make a run at another title.

Yankees Aaron Judge Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Getty Images / Composite by Brandon Strange

The other reason I believe the Astros are going to be OK even if they are unable to make a move before the trade deadline is the performance of the other teams in the American League that are thought to be contenders for the league championship. After a hot start, the Minnesota Twins have cooled off and are now in a dog fight with the Cleveland Indians down the stretch to see who will win the A.L. Central. In the East, the Yankees have gone from favorites to win the World Series to a team that doesn't have enough offense to cover for a less than stellar starting rotation. If New York doesn't make a move for a starting pitcher, they could be in real trouble heading into the postseason. As potent and powerful as their lineup has been all season and with all the injuries they have overcome, it appears that Brian Cashman has work to do if the Bronx Bombers are going to compete with Houston and others for American League supremacy. The reigning World Series Champion Red Sox have been disappointing all year and their lack of quality pitching continues to be at the heart of all the teams' struggles. If it all comes down to the Astros, Twins, and Yankees, I like Houston's chances assuming all three teams stay status quo. If they don't, I still believe the Astros will be there in the end, fighting for their second title in three years.

Houston will look to even the series in Game 2

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 2 Preview

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Houston's performance in Game 1 of the ALCS was a night to forget. The Yankees dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 7-0 victory, which halted any momentum that Houston had built by winning their way into the series with their big Game 5 win in the ALDS.

However, the ALCS is a seven-game series, which means that overcoming a 1-0 deficit is something that a team of Houston's caliber should be able to do. What the Astros have in their favor is that they had arguably their worst starter of the first three games take the mound in Game 1, and in Game 2, they will have Justin Verlander. Here is a quick preview of Game 2 that will take place Sunday night:

Game Facts

When: Sunday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. James Paxton

Series: Yankees lead 1-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Sunday 10/13, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Paxton
Game 3Tuesday 10/15, 3:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole vs Severino
Game 4Wednesday 10/16, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 5*Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 3:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Houston needs a big day from Verlander

With the Yankees' bats overpowering Houston pitching in Game 1, the Astros will look to Justin Verlander to try and hold the potent lineup in check to keep them from putting the game out of reach as they did on Saturday against Zack Greinke and Ryan Pressly. Verlander will rise to the moment well, like he always does, and could be just what the Astros need to hold New York at bay.

The intriguing storyline to see will be how Verlander can manage his pitch count. Greinke was able to do great in this area on Saturday, finishing six innings with a pitch count that, if needed, could have allowed him to go deeper. With Verlander working for more strikeouts than contact, it would be a significant benefit to the Astros if he can go deep into Game 2.

Astros need offense to build on

Houston's bats went nearly silent in Game 1. They cannot allow that to happen again on Sunday. While coming out and putting up a huge first inning would bode well for them, the Astros would also do well to get some offense to build on in the early goings of the game to capture some momentum that they can use to get the crowd behind them to shake the Yankees off their game.

I would expect one, or several, of Houston's key bats to have a huge game to even this series up before it shifts to the Bronx for three games. As was seen in Game 1, it's unlikely that the Yankees will go down without getting a few big hits that usually result in runs. The Astros need to put up as many runs as possible to keep the Yankees out of reach.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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