Conventional wisdom says the playoffs are a crapshoot. More often than not, winning in October can be entirely random. But not for the Astros.
Now one win away from reaching the ALCS for the sixth straight year, the Astros have continued to showcase why they’re consistently one of the last teams remaining each postseason.
In Game 1 of the ALDS, the Mariners ambushed Justin Verlander early, scoring four runs in the first two innings before tacking on two more in the fourth. It was the worst playoff start of Verlander’s illustrious career. Typically, a game feels lost when the team’s ace surrenders six runs in just four frames. It’s not supposed to happen, especially to a battle-tested future Hall of Famer who has a wealth of playoff experience.
The Astros’ script was torched before the third inning even began, but it made no difference in the end. They just win.
Coming into the postseason, the club’s winning formula was fairly clear: An elite pitching staff would shoulder the load while a top-heavy lineup would contribute with timely hits. Or so I thought.
While Game 2 displayed that exact blueprint, Game 1 was just further evidence that the Astros have a unique capability that few other teams have: being able to win in a multitude of ways.
It’s seemingly been a trademark of the organization over the last five-plus years, though it wasn’t quite by design. Rather, it’s a byproduct of assembling an exceptionally well-rounded roster. Granted, the Astros don’t have a historically good offense this year as they did in prior runs, but their hitters collectively registered the sixth-highest wRC+ in baseball in 2022.
Overcoming a four-run deficit with just six outs left is an incredibly difficult thing to do. The Astros were down to their final one when Yordan Álvarez made an upper-deck deposit into right field. Nothing about Game 1 resembled any kind of grand plan. It was purely a showcase of resilience and poise. And it wasn’t all Álvarez.
Despite trailing for the entirety of the game, there weren’t any visible signs of panic. The bullpen, which posted the lowest ERA among all 30 teams during the regular season, allowed just one run while unexpectedly having to cover five innings. The lineup then delivered quality plate appearance after quality plate appearance in the latter stages of the game against a talented Mariners bullpen.
It would be stating the obvious to say that the Astros are built to win after a 106-win season, but there is something to be said about their next-level play in October. Tuesday’s epic comeback win is a prime example.
They’ll be hard-pressed to earn a more impressive victory going forward, but collecting playoff wins in general has seemingly become second-nature for the defending AL champions.
This much has become clear: Whatever the situation, they’ll adapt.