Success at home spawns Astros' confidence
Mark at Minute Maid Park tops in American League
HOUSTON -- Right fielder George Springer doesn't know. Second baseman Jose Altuve would like to answer the question, but really can't. Shortstop Carlos Correa thinks it might have something to do with the crowd.
No one can seem to pinpoint exactly why Astros have played so well at home this year. They tied Toronto for the best home record in the American League during the regular season, going 53-28, which enabled them to overcome the AL's worst road record and make the playoffs.
For the first time since the 2005 World Series, the Astros hope to enjoy that home-field advantage -- whatever it may be -- in a playoff game at Minute Maid Park when they battle the Royals in Game 3 of the AL Division Series at 4 p.m. ET today on MLB Network. The series is tied, 1-1.
"Nothing's probably felt better than putting this white uniform on and knowing that tomorrow we're going to have a lot of fans in our corner to watch us play at home," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Now, we have done a lot of right things at home this year, including ride some really good baseball. We obviously have power, we have speed, all the things that we talked about as our club and it plays in any park, but for whatever reason we have been very, very comfortable playing here, and obviously, this time of year, we want that to continue."
The Astros went 4-2 on their final road trip of the season to win the second AL Wild Card before beating the Yankees in Tuesday's AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. They split the first two games of the ALDS in Kansas City, and will play their first home game in two weeks today.
"We played very well at home and it does feel good to be here," Hinch said. "We had to earn our right to play another game at home. I sat in this room a couple weeks ago, and when you think about what's happened for our club to be able to come back and play a home playoff game after a series in Seattle, fly down to Arizona, have a day off, play a series there, some must wins, fly to New York, play a game, fly to Kansas City, play a game ..."
The Astros do have a lot of pull power, which helps lead to success at Minute Maid Park. They have a lot of ground-ball pitchers, such as Game 3 starter Dallas Keuchel, and have played good enough defense to turn most grounders into outs.
"It's the quality of talent that they have on this team," said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team was swept in Houston by the Astros from June 29-July 1. "They're a tremendous defensive club. Their outfield is like ours, talent-wise. They cover a lot of ground. They all throw well. Their defense in the infield is very, very solid. Their starting pitching is very good. And they've got young, athletic hitters that can do things."
Altuve said when the team left for Seattle two weeks ago, no one knew if they were going to get to play another home game.
"The fans believed in us and that's really good to have," he said. "It's going to be fun."
Minute Maid Park is sold out for both Games 3 and 4, and the Astros are urging fans to wear orange. The roof will be closed, and the Astros are going to be playing in the kind of raucous home environment they've yet to see before.
"From what I've heard from [Chad] Qualls and some of the other guys in the past, it gets loud here with the roof closed, and we're excited for it," catcher Jason Castro said. "We played in New York and Kansas City with those crowds and it could get pretty loud. We're hoping for a next-level type of experience and to be able to bring that back here for the fans of Houston that have stuck with us over the past couple of years."