While most teams will view the Astros as the villains after their recent cheating scandal that likely helped them win the 2017 World Series, the Astros will no doubt see the 2021 World Series as their chance for redemption.
Presumably, they are no longer using technology to steal signs, giving them a chance to win the World Series again fair and square. But with the Braves maintaining a high level of play since the end of July, Houston will need to play at a high level to win the World Series.
Preview: Five keys for Astros in World Series
In fairness, the Astros closed out the ALCS in impressive fashion. After falling behind 2-1, some were starting to count them out.
But Houston proceeded to win three straight games against the Red Sox, outscoring them 23-3 in the process. Let’s check out five keys to the Astros keeping up that momentum and winning the 2021 World Series.
Is there an Ace?
Lance McCullers Jr. pitched great in his two starts earlier in the playoffs but is unlikely to be healthy enough to pitch in the World Series. That creates a huge hole at the top of the Houston rotation, especially with Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy having poor outings.
Framber Valdez looked the part of an ace in Game 5 of the ALCS while Luis Garcia pitched well in Game 6. But Houston’s rotation depth is a huge question, and so they will need somebody, likely Valdez, to perform like a bonafide ace.
With the rotation a question mark, Houston’s bullpen needs to step up. The good news is that the team’s relievers have been outstanding in the playoffs thus far.
The likes of Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman, Cristian Javier, and closer Ryan Pressly have combined to give up just four runs over 34 innings during the playoffs. That group has been utterly dominant so far, and they’ll need to give it going against the Braves.
The Astros had the fourth-fewest stolen bases in baseball during the regular season, so that is not a big part of what they do.
But with the way the Dodgers ran on Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud during the NLCS, the Braves have an obvious weakness the Astros need to exploit. While it’s not in their nature, they need to make more of an effort to steal bases, especially with three games in Atlanta when the Astros won’t be able to use a DH.
While Houston’s lineup is deep, it’s hard to imagine them winning the World Series if Altuve doesn’t have a good series.
He’s supposed to be the catalyst at the top of the lineup, although he’s had some struggles in the playoffs. In 10 games, Altuve is only batting .200, although he has a healthy OPS of .802. The Astros will likely need a little more out of him in the World Series.
Keep the homers coming
Naturally, the biggest key for the Astros in the Fall Classic is just doing what they do best, which is hitting home runs.
They already have 13 homers in 10 games from seven different players during the postseason. While hitting home runs isn’t always a prerequisite for the Houston lineup, something will seem off if the Astros aren’t leaving the ballpark, so they need to keep hitting home runs against the Braves.
Read more on the 2021 World Series in our MLB picks.