The Astros finished off the winningest record in franchise history Sunday, completing a 107-win season, their third 100-win season in a row. They also have the best record in baseball giving them home field advantage through the entire playoffs.
They closed out the regular season in style with back-to-back wins from their Cy Young co-competitors, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Cole amassed additional records including his first 20-win season and becoming the first player in MLB history to throw double-digit strikeouts in nine consecutive games.
As we await the winner of Tampa Bay and Oakland to see who the Astros will face in the ALDS, we look back over the 2019 regular season with some winners and losers.
Alex Bregman and Yourdan Alvarez
Two of the youngest members of the Astros lineup are in line for some postseason hardware. Yourdan Alvarez, whose numbers are incredible, especially considering he only played half a season, will be the AL Rookie of the Year; and Alex Bregman is going to make it very hard not to vote for him for AL MVP. Bregman has been doing this for several years now. Alvarez came out of nowhere. Both make the Astros future look very bright.
The Back End of the Bullpen
In 2017, when the Astros won their first World Series title, they cobbled together their postseason bullpen with spit and bailing wire. What a difference a couple years makes. While they don't have a stable long reliever, Will Harris, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna are about as good as it gets at the back of the 'pen. Pressly has returned from his injury looking close to normal; Harris, with the first immaculate inning in 15 years for the 'Stros, looks incredibly sharp; and Osuna has pulled himself out of an earlier tailspin to look dominant once again.
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole
The two best pitchers in baseball both play for the same team. The embarrassment of riches, especially when you consider third starter Zack Greinke and a near murderer's row of a lineup, is unreal. Verlander seems to get better with age and Cole put together one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent memory. Whoever gets the Cy Young, the other will be equally deserving.
Not only has the Astros GM built an incredible team, but one that is designed to remain relevant for a long while. Just when you think it's a team loaded with veterans, he pulls a Jose Urquidy or Yourdan Alverez out of his hat. And when the starting rotation falters, poof, it's Zack Greinke. They refer to Rockets GM Daryl Morey as the wizard, but he may need to hand that hat over the Luhnow, especially if the Astros bring home a second championship.
Wade Miley went from one of the best pitchers in the AL to possibly left off the postseason roster.
Photo by Jack Gorman
New York Yankees
No one should feel sorry for the Bronx Bombers and their injury-riddled season. But, they have struggled with them all year and still nearly got home field advantage. Still, for a team that is talked about every year as the presumptive favorite to win it all (and they still could), it's a little gratifying that whoever wins the AL will have to come through Houston, including the Yanks.
Every year fans hope this is the year when Correa finally fulfills the promise of his God-given abilities. Every year, so far, he has fallen short thanks to injuries. This season, his balky back caused him to miss time as did a fluke massage injury (?). With the emergence of Alvarez and the big salaries that will have to be handed out by the Astros over the next two to three years, we aren't far off from wondering if Correa will be on the outside looking in when the time comes to pony up a big contract for the team's best young players.
There are cliffs and then there is what Miley fell off of in the last month-plus of the season. The Astros third starter for much of the season had the third or fourth best ERA in the AL for most of the year. Then, something happened. His cutter, which was arguably his most important pitch, didn't have quite the bite and right handed hitters began to tee off. He either didn't complete or barely made it out of the first inning in three of his final five starts. Not a great way to head into a postseason where he could be relegated to a lefty reliever or maybe left off altogether.
The AL West
The Astros were 50-26 against teams in their own division and all but a handful of those losses came on the road. This is in a division where the A's are a wild card team. Dominant isn't even a strong enough word to describe how the Astros dismantled the AL West in 2019.