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These 5 thrilling wins were Astros' best of 2019

November 26, 2019

HOUSTON -- When you win a franchise-record 107 games in the regular season -- and then add 10 more in the postseason -- there is no shortage of memorable moments. For the Astros, their most indelible moments happened during their run to Game 7 of the World Series, which ended

HOUSTON -- When you win a franchise-record 107 games in the regular season -- and then add 10 more in the postseason -- there is no shortage of memorable moments. For the Astros, their most indelible moments happened during their run to Game 7 of the World Series, which ended with a loss to the Nationals.

Still, the Astros’ best regular season in their history and unforgettable postseason run was chock full of big hits, terrific plays and, and perhaps most of all, dominating pitching performances. After all, the Astros had the top two finishers in the American League Cy Young Award race on their team in winner Justin Verlander and runner-up Gerrit Cole, AL Most Valuable Player Award runner-up Alex Bregman and AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Yordan Alvarez.

So here are the Astros’ five best wins from 2019:

1) Oct. 19: Game 6 of 2019 AL Championship Series vs. Yankees

In one of the most dramatic moments in club history, José Altuve crushed an Aroldis Chapman slider and hit a towering walk-off two-run homer in the ninth inning to score George Springer and clinch the AL pennant in a 6-4 win over the Yankees at Minute Maid Park. The Astros won the best-of-seven series, 4-2, to punch their ticket to the World Series for the second time in three seasons. The homer came moments after DJ LeMahieu of the Yankees hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth.

What does it tell us about 2020?

Altuve will turn 30 early next season but remains one of the game’s best hitters, especially in the clutch. One of the reasons the Astros fizzled in the 2018 postseason against the Red Sox was that Altuve wasn’t healthy. He was essentially playing with a broken kneecap that required surgery only hours after the Red Sox eliminated the Astros in 2018. Altuve suffered some leg fatigue early in the '19 season because he couldn’t lift weights in the offseason, which forced him back on the injured list. Once healthy in the second half, Altuve showed again why he’s a force at the plate with a huge finish and strong showing in October.

2) Sept. 1: Verlander throws third career no-hitter

Verlander, en route to winning his second Cy Young Award, spun his third career no-hitter by allowing one walk and striking out 14 batters in a 2-0 win over the Blue Jays in Toronto. Rookie Abraham Toro, a native of Canada, hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to break a scoreless tie. With his third no-hitter, Verlander joined Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Larry Corcoran and Cy Young as the sixth pitcher to throw at least three in their careers.

What does it tell us about 2020?

Verlander remains an elite starter, even entering his age-37 season. The veteran right-hander signed a two-year contract extension prior to last season that will pay him $33 million in 2020 and ’21 and give the Astros a top-of-the-rotation ace who’s taken his career to new levels since coming to Houston. Verlander says he wants to pitch until he’s 45 and has the work ethic to get it done. That could put him in line for 300 wins. During the 2019 season, he reached 300 strikeouts for the first time, notched his 3,000th career strikeout, won his 225th game and threw another no-no en route to the Cy Young. Verlander is as good as ever.

3) Aug. 10: Astros erupt for 23 runs against Baltimore

Alvarez clubbed three homers in the Astros’ 23-2 rout of the O’s in Baltimore. The Astros set a franchise record for most runs in a game (23), most extra-base hits in a game (13) and tied the franchise record for most hits in a game (25). While Alvarez hit three homers, Carlos Correa hit a 474-foot blast that’s the longest tracked homer by Statcast at Camden Yards.

What does it tell us about 2020?

Alvarez will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Alvarez smashed team rookie records on his way to the Rookie of the Year, with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in 87 games. If you were to extrapolate Alvarez’s 2019 numbers over a 162-game season, he was on pace for 50 homers and 150 RBIs. That’s scary stuff for the rest of the AL West.

4) Oct. 5: Cole dominates Rays in AL Division Series

Cole baffled the Rays for 7 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out an Astros franchise postseason record 15 batters -- the most in any postseason game since 2000 -- while allowing one walk and four hits to lead the Astros to a 3-1 victory in Game 2 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Cole became the seventh pitcher to strike out 15 in a postseason game and the first since Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS.

What does it tell us about 2020?

If Cole, who’s a free agent, doesn’t return next year, the Astros will have a huge hole to fill in their rotation. The fact is they might not be able to fill it. Cole had the kind of run over the final two-thirds of the season that happens once or twice in a generation. It’s been well documented how he went 16-0 down the stretch and struck out the most batters by an AL pitcher in more than 40 years, but Cole was also excellent in the postseason (1.72 ERA). If he’s not back, it’s a big loss for the Astros.

5) Sept. 5: Astros wipe out seven-run deficit

After starting pitcher Wade Miley didn’t record an out while facing six batters to help drop the Astros into a 7-0 hole vs. the Mariners, Houston rallied to win, 11-9, in 13 innings at Minute Maid Park. Michael Brantley’s two-run, walk-off homer sent the Astros to their biggest come-from-behind victory in more than 25 years.

What does it tell us about 2020?

Considering most of the key components in Houston’s offense return next year, the Astros figure to remain elite offensively in 2020. All of their core offensive players are back -- Bregman, Alvarez, Altuve, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Correa and Brantley -- with a couple of holes to fill at catcher. While it’s extremely rare to turn a seven-run deficit into a lead, the Astros will continue to have the kind of firepower in which they’re never out of a game.