With their 4-2 series win over the Yankees in the ALCS, the Houston Astros have earned a spot in the World Series opposite the Washington Nationals. , so now let's turn our attention to the AL-champion Astros with eight things to know about their second trip to the Fall Classic in three seasons.
1. This is the Astros' third pennant
The Astros previously won the pennant in 2005, 2017, and now 2019. The franchise has been in existence since 1962, when they entered the league as the expansion Houston Colt .45s. They lost in their first three trips to the LCS, in 1980, 1986, and 2004 before breaking through the following year.
With their triumph on Saturday night, the Astros now rank 19th among the 30 franchises in pennants won. They had been in a tie with the Marlins, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Padres with two pennants each, but the outcome of Game 6 against the Yankees broke said tie. The Astros are now one pennant behind the Royals.
2. This, however, is just their second AL pennant
Until 2013, the Astros had been lifetime members of the National League. However, in order to give the leagues the same number of teams the Astros switched to the AL prior to the 2013 season. So the first pennant they won in 2005 came as a member of the National League. That year, they beat the Cardinals in six games to advance to the World Series, where they were swept by the White Sox. That year in tandem with the Astros' 2017 pennant makes them the only franchise to win a pennant in each league. The Brewers won a pennant in 1982 as a member of the AL and of course are now an NL team. However, they're yet to make the World Series as the NL representative.
3. This may be the best team in franchise history
Thanks to the Astros' profoundly impressive young core -- largely a function of the deep tanking they undertook from 2011-13 -- in tandem with targeted veteran additions like, oh, the entire front of the rotation, the Astros have been an absolute juggernaut over the last three seasons. Since the start of the 2017 season, the Astros have racked up 311 regular season wins and, as noted, a pair of pennants. The 2019 model racked up a franchise-record 107 wins. Last year's Astros team compiled a better run differential than this year's, but in 2018 the Astros were knocked out in the LCS round. To hear most tell it, you have to win the World Series to be the best team in franchise history. Should the 2019 team finish the job, they can lay claim to that designation.
4. Astros have World Series home-field advantage for first time
When the Astros first appeared in the World Series in 2005, the league that won the All-Star Game earned home field advantage in the Fall Classic (yes, that's as dumb as it sounds). Since the AL prevailed 7-5 in the All-Star Game that year -- recall that the Astros were an NL team in those days -- the White Sox had home field advantage in the series. In time for the 2017 season, MLB sensibly changed course and declared that the team with the better regular season record would have home field advantage in the World Series. The Astros won a robust 101 games that season, but the NL-champion Dodgers secured home field with their 104-58 regular season record. The Astros won it in seven games and celebrated at Dodger Stadium. This time around, the Astros can celebrate on the field at Minute Maid Park if they take the series in six or seven games, but they're of course hoping the series doesn't go that long.
5. The Astros are World Series favorites
The Nationals, with their powerhouse front of the rotation and strong offense, are better than their wild-card status would lead you to believe, but they're not on the Astros' level, at least on paper. No doubt bookmakers will be leaning Houston going in to the World Series. As of Sunday, Caesars listed Houston with -235 odds to win the World Series to Washington's +195 chances. Along those same lines, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) gives the Astros a 69.3 percent chance of besting the Nats for the belt and the title.
6. The Houston offense, however, will be tested
The Astros won the ALCS despite their offense, truth be told. During that six-game victory over the Yankees, the Astros batted just .179/.281/.318. The Yankees' pitching, of course, is not a team strength. Yes, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez figures to pose a much stiffer test. Classic pitching duels figure to be in the offing, and when when runs are hard to come by you can get unexpected outcomes. That's the danger for the favored Astros.had much to do with those numbers, but the Nationals' likely World Series rotation of
7. Avoiding ALCS Game 7 was big
Had the the Yankees prevailed in Game 6 -- not a crazy thought considering DJ LeMahieu's homer off Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth tied the score -- then Game 7 would've been on Sunday. For that one, the Astros would've started co-ace Gerrit Cole, which in turn would've put Cole on ice likely until Game 3 of the World Series. Now, though, Cole can start Game 1 against the Nationals on full rest. That in turn means Justin Verlander can start Game 2 on full rest, followed by Zack Greinke in Game 3.
8. The Astros can pull off a rare trifecta
Alex Bregman has a real shot at winning the AL MVP award this season despite the ongoing excellence of Mike Trout. Verlander, meantime, is the solid favorite to take AL Cy Young honors. If the Astros win the World Series and then they take the top two individual awards, then that puts them in rare company. No team since the 1988 Dodgers (Kirk Gibson, MVP; Orel Hershiser, Cy Young) has claimed the MVP, Cy Young, and World Series trophy in the same season. Overall, just five teams have achieved the trifecta of note. In addition to the '88 Dodgers, the 1980 Phillies, 1961 Yankees, 1960 Pirates, and 1957 Braves also took home all three (recall that prior to 1967 there was only one overall Cy Young award).
As long as we're on the topic of hardware, it's worth noting that Houston DH Yordan Alvarez is perhaps the favorite to take home AL Rookie of the Year laurels. No team has ever won all four -- i.e., the World Series, the MVP, the CY, and the Rookie of the Year -- in the same season. The 2019 Astros have a shot to become the first.
Of course, if they're able to top the Nationals in the World Series, then the rest is details.