HOUSTON -- The Astros would have preferred to reverse the narrative of the odd home-field disadvantage they’ve experienced this season at Minute Maid Park, but with two losses under their belts in the American League Championship Series, the numbers aren’t lying.
For this year’s Houston squad, there’s no place like the road. With that, they are ready to zip their suitcases for the trek north to Arlington.
Including Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Rangers in ALCS Game 2, the Astros have lost 45 times in 85 home games this season. The passion from thousands of raucous, orange-towel-waving fans hasn’t changed; only the results have. Houston was 61-27 at Minute Maid Park last season when it charged to its second World Series championship.
“I think we’re a good ballclub,” said third baseman Alex Bregman. “Home, road, wherever, I think it comes down to execution. They’ve got a heck of a team. The margin for error is a lot slimmer when you’re playing a good team.”
Not to take anything away from the Rangers, but this issue isn’t a new development -- and no team has reached the World Series after posting a losing home record.
During the regular season, the Astros performed better on the road in nearly every offensive category, leading the American League in road runs (462), homers (130), batting average (.268) and OPS (.798). Houston pitchers also performed better on the road during the regular season, logging an AL-best 3.62 road ERA. The Astros’ 4.25 home ERA ranked eighth among the 15 AL clubs.
So what’s behind it? As manager Dusty Baker has said, if they knew the answer to that, it’d have been fixed already. Astros general manager Dana Brown has speculated that negative fan reaction away from Minute Maid Park could be part of the equation.
“I will say the booing on the road and fans getting on you, it definitely motivates you and inspires you to want to kick butt,” Brown said recently. “But at home, I mean, we all get complacent in our lives at times. I don’t know if it’s that. I can’t really put my finger on it.”
In response to player feedback, subtle adjustments were made to Minute Maid Park. In September, the Astros announced the addition of green paint to the right side of the batter’s eye beyond the center-field fence, an attempt to neutralize distractions following a punchless offensive series against the Athletics.
The topic drew attention on FOX Sports’ pregame show Monday, when Derek Jeter called the Astros’ home-road disparity “inexplicable.”
"It’s not like they're struggling for a week or a month. This is an entire year,” Jeter said. “You can't say they don't see the ball. You look at the run differential, everybody else sees the ball here, so I don't know how to explain it. But they need to turn it around, and they need to turn it around quickly, or they're in trouble.”
David Ortiz, seated to Jeter’s left on the panel, asked the former Yankees captain what his solution would have been.
“I’d take them all to a hotel and pretend we're on the road," Jeter replied.
The good news for the Astros, who have won 16 of their last 19 away games, is that they will indeed have key cards and room service at their disposal for the next several days in the Metroplex.
They’ll surely spend some of those hours reviewing their most recent visit to Globe Life Field, a lopsided three-game sweep from Sept. 4-6 during which they outscored the Rangers by a 39-10 tally. The final scores of those contests were 13-6, 14-1 and 12-3.
“We play a little better on the road, and we’ve played well at that stadium,” outfielder Chas McCormick said. “We’ve got to win two out of three going over there. It’s do or die at this point, and we’ve got to play with some urgency.
“We have been playing with urgency, but we need to capitalize a little more. I don’t think we’ve been capitalizing on our chances to take the lead or get closer into the game.”