In no way, shape, or form was 2020 a normal year for anybody. For the Houston Astros in particular, 2020 had some major highs and lows. From dealing with the fallout of the 2017 sign-stealing scandal during a tumultuous regular season, to a deep postseason run, the Astros had an eventful 2020 season. At the end of the day, all things considered, it was really successful.
All Eyes Were on Houston
From the very start of the original Spring Training, everybody in the baseball world was watching the Astros. The news that the 2017 team stole signs in their postseason run was very fresh in the minds of the masses. There were plenty of players around the league who did not hold back in their criticism of Houston. While the Astros won two of their games at Dodger Stadium in the 2017 World Series, including Game Seven, a large chunk of the baseball world didn’t believe they earned their championship. Houston went into the 2020 season determined to prove the doubters wrong.
Regular Season Was a Bumpy Ride
From the very start of the regular season, injuries ravaged the Astros. No injury was bigger than the injury to the reigning Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander. After just one start, Verlander was shut down due to a forearm strain. When Verlander was nearing a return, he suffered a setback. The veteran determined Tommy John surgery was the right course of action. Houston’s closer Roberto Osuna had just four appearances before an arm injury shut him down for the season. The reigning Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez, missed the beginning of the season due to a positive Covid-19 test. When he finally returned, he played just two games before a knee injury ended his season.
Injuries to veterans like Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock made the team turn to a multitude of rookies. Position players like Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman all spent time on the injured list. There was a lot of negative, but the negative also bred some positives.
Year of the Rookie
The injuries to so many veterans gave some young players the opportunity to show what they could do. Houston used 13 rookie pitchers in the abbreviated 60-game season. Three rookies in particular carried the bullpen: Blake Taylor, Andre Scrubb, and Enoli Paredes. These three combined for a 2.37 ERA in 65 innings. A couple rookies had to fill in the starting rotation: Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. While Urquidy had a cup of coffee in 2019, his rookie status was still intact. Urquidy and Javier combined for a 3.11 ERA in 84 innings.
The biggest breakouts weren’t technically rookies, but it was their first opportunity to really show what they could do. These two were Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker. Valdez pitched to the tune of a 3.57 ERA in 70.2 innings, striking out 76 batters. Tucker was the most consistent and healthy hitter on the team. The 23-year old led the team with 56 hits, six triples, 42 RBI, and eight stolen bases. Thanks to some of these breakout players, the Astros were able to stay afloat. The 2020 Astros became one of two teams to ever make the postseason with a record that was under .500 at 29-31. However, all that mattered was that they made the postseason.
The Postseason Lights Were Back On
Despite the ups and downs of the regular season, the Astros found themselves in the postseason for the fourth year in a row. They really put it together when they reached October. Their confidence was back, and they became dangerous once again. The Astros swept the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series. In the Division Series, Carlos Correa‘s 11 RBI led the Astros past the Oakland Athletics 3-1.
Despite losing, the Championship Series was where Houston really proved their mettle. The Astros went down 3-0 in the series versus the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead of putting their heads down and packing their bags, they fought back. They became the second team in MLB history to force a Game Seven after losing the first three. While they lost Game Seven, they gave it everything they had. At the end of the day, the Rays always had a defender where the Astros hit the ball. Tampa’s great defense put an end to most Houston rallies, but the Astros fought hard.
There were so many ways this season could have gone horribly wrong for the 2020 Astros. With so much ridicule from the outside world, and so many injuries to key players, Houston could have just folded under the pressure, but they didn’t and they never stopped fighting. Thanks to Dusty Baker, in his first season as manager, and a group of resilient players, the 2020 Astros turned a lot of negatives into a successful season.
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