The Astros were great in 2017. Then they traded for Justin Verlander, and they were better. The Houston team that opponents faced in the postseason was not the team they saw most of the regular season: this one had Justin Verlander, and also, A.J. Hinch replaced his relievers with starting pitchers who weren’t starting on that day, because they were better pitchers.
The result? The Astros won the World Series in 2017.
Oh, and then they traded for Gerrit Cole during the offseason. So then the 2018 regular season had a full year of Justin Verlander in it, and also Gerrit Cole. Cole, like Verlander, was better once he got to the ‘Stros, more like the pitcher everyone was excited about in the years before they were made available for a relatively low price in a trade. That seems unfair, but credit to Houston for knowing Verlander and Cole had more left to offer than the Tigers and Pirates realized.
*And, of course, lol at the Pirates for trading Cole in the offseason for basically nothing and then giving up a legitimate prospect package to acquire good-but-not-as-good Chris Archer at the trade deadline
The Indians faced Verlander Friday in Game 1 of the ALDS, and he outpitched their ace, Corey Kluber. Gerrit Cole took on Carlos Carrasco in Game 2, and once again the Astros’ pitcher outpitched Cleveland’s. Carrasco did well, too, much better than Kluber managed, but not as well as Cole. Just to make sure we all remember that, oh, right, the Astros have Gerrit Cole now, he went seven innings, allowed, just one run, and sat 12 down by way of the K. Just three Indians reached base, none via a walk, and 70 of Cole’s 98 pitches were strikes. If you’ve got to work on a Saturday, you might as well do a good job.
Cole’s regular season wasn’t a whole lot different than this, although it was overshadowed for much of the year by Verlander’s successful continuation of his fountain of youth shtick. Cole posted a 2.88 ERA, led the American League in strikeout rate with 12.4 per nine, allowed just 6.4 hits per nine, and made it over the 200-inning mark for the second season in a row.
Basically, I just need you to know that the Astros won the World Series in 2017, and it wasn’t a fluke. Just in case, though, they added Gerrit Cole to their already bountiful prospect of a full season of Justin Verlander, and then both of them pitched like Cy Young contenders all season long, with Cole putting on the kind of performance in his first postseason start that would have swung the award’s voters if the ballots hadn’t already been due before the playoffs began.
This is great if you’re an Astros fan. It’s not so great if you’re rooting for Cleveland, or, assuming the now-up-two-games-to-none Houston advances, whoever wins the other ALDS between the Red Sox and Yankees. Never mind if the Astros get to the World Series again and get to face teams that didn’t win 100-plus games, and also, do not have Gerrit Cole.
Who is on the Astros now, by the way.