2020 has not been kind to the defending AL champion Houston Astros. Through 45 games, the Astros are just 22-23 this season and trail the A’s by seven games in the AL West.
Despite this, Houston should find themselves in October as they hold a 2.5 game lead for second place in the division over a rebuilding Seattle Mariners ball club.
Houston has been ravaged by injuries this season and continue to deal with the distraction brought on by their 2017 sign-stealing scandal but still would not be the top choice for the Indians in a three-game playoff series.
Two-time Cy-Young Award winner Justin Verlander is expected back for the postseason, which would give Houston a three-man rotation of Verlander, Zack Greinke who also owns a Cy-Young and either Framber Valdez who has posted a 3.61 ERA in seven starts this season or Lance McCullers who has postseason experience.
Offensively, the Astros have seen their stars underperform, but it’s hard not to fear a battle tested offense that includes Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa.
The weakest link for the Astros is their bullpen, who is without closer Roberto Osuna for the rest of the season; thus, if the Indians can do just enough against the Astros starters and get into the pen, they should be able to find ways to win.
These aren’t the same Astros that have won at least 100 games each of the past three seasons, but they are a club that just needs to get in to make noise making them only semi-desirable for Cleveland as a potential first round opponent.