It goes without saying, reaching a World Series is really difficult. Just getting to the Fall Classic deserves to be celebrated. Over the past five seasons, the Houston Astros have reached the World Series three times. What the Astros have done over that span is truly impressive. They won in 2017 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, one can’t help but wonder what could have been in the two World Series that they lost. In 2019, Houston lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games. This past season, they lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games. Despite the recent disappointment, the Astros roster has what it takes to reach the Fall Classic in 2022. Here’s how Houston can return to the World Series and win it once again.
Astros Young Starters Must Slow Their Heartbeat
One of the issues that hindered the Astros through the postseason was the struggles of some of their young starters. Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy had trouble throughout the postseason with limiting the damage done against. Time and time again the trio would face some trouble in an inning and be unable to pitch out of it, leading to some crooked numbers being put on the scoreboard. At times it seemed the pressure was getting the best of them, they looked flustered and anxious. Houston was largely able to overcome these issues, until the World Series where it contributed to their demise.
Following a fantastic 2020 postseason with no fans in the stands, Valdez did not find the same success in the 2021 postseason. In 19 2/3 innings across five starts, Valdez surrendered 18 total runs. Garcia was the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year award in the regular season, but the postseason was a different story. In 15 2/3 innings, Garcia gave up 14 total runs. Urquidy pitched 7 2/3 innings and he gave up eight total runs. It’s truly amazing that the Astros reached the World Series with inconsistent pitching throughout the postseason. This is a reason for hope in 2022. If Houston can get more consistent pitching performances in October, perhaps they can reach the World Series again.
Health Is Key
One of the big what-ifs of this past season was what if Lance McCullers Jr. hadn’t gotten hurt in the middle of the postseason. McCullers made two starts in the ALDS, giving up one run in 10 2/3 innings. However, a forearm injury ended his playoff run early. McCullers was the ace of the 2021 Astros, finishing seventh in Cy Young voting. Health is always important, but especially for the Astros veteran pitchers.
Another veteran pitcher whose health can determine the fate of the team is Justin Verlander. The soon-to-be 39-year-old has made one start in the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. As long as Houston’s veteran pitching remains healthy come postseason time, they could find their way back to a World Series.
As hard as it is to get to the World Series, the Astros roster has what it takes to do it in back-to-back seasons. Even if Carlos Correa departs in free agency, they have one of the best lineups in baseball. If the Astros young pitching can learn to slow their heartbeat in pressure-packed moments and if their veteran starters can stay healthy, Houston may not only reach the World Series again, but they could win it all.
Embed from Getty Images