With the Astros down 2-0 in the World Series and looking like they don’t even belong there sometimes, there’s a simple question everyone in Houston is asking.
What’s gone wrong?
Here are some possible answers, merely for discussion.
The Astros bats are in a slump.
Obviously. This happens all the time to every team during the regular season. We bitch and moan, but we know it won’t last forever. It’s no big deal if you’re a knowledgeable fan. Except, it is a big deal when it happens in the post-season. You won’t win the Title unless your pitching happens to be better than your hitting is bad. Which happened in the Division Series and League Series, but hasn’t happened in the World Series
In the week before the playoffs, the Astro team OPS was .771, about 100 points below the season average. In the Game Recap for the Game 1 ALCS loss to the Yankees I wrote, “Looks like the Astros picked the wrong week to have a hitting slump, just before the playoffs began.” It has only gotten worse since then.
In the Divison Series the Astros hit OPS .700. In the League series they hit .600 (Yeah really, perfect numbers) In the two games so far in the World Series there’s actually some improvement, .753, but that still won’t cut it.
We’ve been saying all post-season: the Astros need to break out of their slump. Now there’s no more time to wait. In particular, during the World Series Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman have two hits between them, although Bregs’ was a home run last night.
The Astros aces seem tired
Justin Verlander’s post-season ERA is 4.15. Take out the dominant shutout of the Rays in the first game of the playoffs and it’s much worse. For some reason he is terrible in the first inning now.
Gerrit Cole is showing fatigue as well. Although his playoff ERA of 1.82 is stellar, in the last game he pitched against the Yankees, while allowing no runs, he gave up a season high five walks. In his start against the Nationals he had his worst start since May, allowing five runs. Both Verlander and Cole have now logged almost 250 innings this season, which probably wears on Verlander in particular at 36 years old.
The Astros got this far in the playoffs riding on those two arms. They will have to find a different way to win, and fast.
The Astros seem demoralized
Lackadaisacal baserunning may have cost the Astros a win in Game 1. Sloppy fielding turned a close game last night into a romp for the Nats. The key Astros have been here before, but it is the Nationals who are playing loosely and with confidence.
The Nationals are as hot as the Astros are cold
Actually, I was surprised to find that they haven’t really been hitting that well in the post-season before Tuesday. For the entire post-season the Nats have a .737 team OPS. The Astros’ is .663. But in these two World Series games the Nats are at .912 OPS, the Astros .753
One reason why they swept the Cardinals was their amazing clutch hitting in that series, a 1.085 OPS with runners in scoring position. So far they are hitting .792 in the World Series, compared to the Astros’ .516. (The Astros were .639 and .548 in the Divison and Leagues Series respectively. C’mon guys)
It’s amazing pitching that has carried the Nats so far. They have a team ERA of 3.00 in the playoffs. Houston is a run higher at 4.03.
So the Nats are suddenly hitting out of their minds in the WS. Is it them, or us. Hot bats, or tired arms. Be sure to consult your physician before undertaking the stressful task of figuring that one out.
Two games is a small sample size
No doubt the Astros face daunting odds at this point. But teams have lost their first two games at home and gone on to win the Worlds Series. Three times, in fact, according to the Fox broadcasters last night. Who says the Astros can’t win two out of three in Washington, and then come home with the top of the rotation, hopefully with enough gas to be great one more time.
All these trends above could turn around in a heartbeat. It’s baseball