A second consecutive American League West title and a team-record 103 wins have the Astros feeling pretty good about themselves entering the postseason, which gets underway for them Friday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Indians at Minute Maid Park.The deep AL postseason field features three
A second consecutive American League West title and a team-record 103 wins have the Astros feeling pretty good about themselves entering the postseason, which gets underway for them Friday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Indians at Minute Maid Park.
The deep AL postseason field features three 100-win teams and an A's team that pushed the Astros in the division until the final week of the regular season. No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.
So let's take a look at some FAQs facing the Astros heading into the postseason:
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
Q: How do the Astros match up against the Indians?
A: The Astros went 4-3 against the Indians this season, with all seven meetings coming in a 10-day span in May. Houston won two of three at home from May 18-20 and split a four-game series in Cleveland from May 24-27. The Astros squandered a five-run lead after eight innings in a 10-9, 14-inning loss on May 27.
The Astros hit .293 and scored 45 runs in seven games against the Indians, averaging 6.4 runs per game. They had a team ERA of 3.95 in seven games against the Tribe, allowing 29 runs (4.1 runs per game).
Jose Altuve feasted on Cleveland pitching this year, hitting .469 (15-for-32), with Yuli Gurriel (.355) and George Springer (.323) also bashing Indians pitching. Marwin Gonzalez (5-for-22) and Carlos Correa (7-for-30) scuffled against the Tribe. On the mound, Charlie Morton is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Indians. Dallas Keuchel has also made two starts against Cleveland this year, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA.
Justin Verlander, Houston's likely Game 1 starter, didn't pitch against Cleveland in the regular season, but he has a lot of experience against the Indians from his 13 years in Detroit. He has nine more losses in his career against the Tribe than any other team, going 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA in 52 starts.
Games 1 and 2 will be at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 5-6, Games 3 and 4 will be at Progressive Field on Oct. 8-9 and Game 5 would take place Oct. 11 in Houston, if needed.
Q: What will the pitching rotation look like?
A: Hinch is going to announce his rotation on Tuesday, but I think it's safe to say Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) will start Game 1, Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA) will start Game 2, Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA) will start Game 3 and Morton (15-3, 3.13 ERA) will start Game 4. That would put Verlander in line to start a possible Game 5 in Houston.
The Indians have announced that two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber will start Game 1 and Carlos Carrasco will start Game 2.
Q: What's the health status of Correa, Morton and Lance McCullers?
A: Correa was on the disabled list from June 26-Aug. 9 with a sore back, and he hasn't performed well since. He hit .180 with six extra-base hits in his 123 at-bats after being activated from the DL, and he was given another week off late in the regular season. He appeared to clear a big hurdle when he homered and doubled in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader win over the Orioles.
Morton, who's been battling a sore shoulder, threw three innings without any issues in Sunday's season-finale loss. McCullers threw in relief on Saturday and Sunday, and he looked ready to go as well. He was on the DL from Aug. 5-Sept. 24 with an elbow injury.
Q: What are some of the big decisions the Astros face concerning their ALDS roster?
A: The Astros will carry 11 pitchers in a five-game ALDS, meaning they'll carry seven relievers. There's plenty of competition among those spots, which could put players who were on the postseason roster last year -- like Brad Peacock, Will Harris and Chris Devenski -- in limbo. Hard-throwing rookie Josh James has put himself in the mix for a relief spot as well. The club also has to decide whether to carry Max Stassi as a third catcher or Myles Straw as a pinch-runner in sort of the same role that Derek Fisher served last year.
Q: Which position player could be a key factor that we're not thinking about?
A: Catcher Martin Maldonado. Acquired in a July trade from the Angels, the veteran has a cannon for an arm and can control the running game. The Indians were second in the Majors in stolen bases attempted in the regular season, and Maldonado will be on their minds any time they want to get aggressive. If the Astros beat the Indians and advance to the face the Red Sox, they'll play a Boston team that was third with 156 steal attempts. Maldonado can provide the occasional pull homer, but he's here because of his arm.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>