The Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday night to advance to the ALCS against the New York Yankees. The battle for the AL pennant should be an amazing series between two of the game's true current titans.
Let me preface this by saying I think it's possible the Yankees win the ALCS or the Cardinals or Nationals beat the Astros in the World Series. I think the other three remaining teams do have a shot at the World Series title.
The Astros are the favorites, though, and there are many reasons for it. They have three aces. They have a good bullpen. They have an outstanding offense that is both star-laden and deep. They have a great manager who has proven he's up to the task in big games.
Something else stands out as the biggest reason to me, though.
The Astros were 60-21 in the regular season at home. Yes, they were the equivalent of a 120-win team at home. They only lost two series at home (hilariously, one of those was to the Pirates) all year. So far in the playoffs, they are 3-0 at home. The 63-21 mark at home is prorated to 122 wins in a full season. At Minute Maid Park, they basically play like the best team ever.
The Astros also have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs thanks to their 107 regular-season wins.
In order for any team to knock off the Astros, they are going to have to win a game there. If they do win at Minute Maid Park, they also have to hold home field. The Astros are no slouch on the road, playing to the equivalent of a 94-win team on the road this season.
If the Astros do get a road game, in order to lose the series, the opposing team will have to get a four-game split in Minute Maid and it's hard to see that happening.
These next two rounds should be an awful lot of fun, but if you have to bet on someone to win it all, go with the Astros. They are outrageously good at home and that's where the majority of their games will be played.