Determined to change their reputation in the world of baseball, the boys at Minute Maid Park have something to prove.
Having surpassed the New York Yankees as the winningest team in the American League on August 11, the Houston Astros are now the team to beat in the AL in 2022, with a record of 75-43. A team that was recently an outcast in Major League Baseball has bit by bit reconstructed itself into a solid powerhouse, leading the AL with the best away record of 36-25.
After shockwaves reverberated across the league following the exposure of sign-stealing schemes used by the team in 2017, fans and fellow baseball players turned their backs on the former champs, but the Astros are still composing their comeback tale with tunnel vision set on one objective: another World Series championship. Basking from a four-game winning streak following a series sweep against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park this past weekend, the team has endured a bumpy road this season on their quest for baseball’s ultimate prize.
Here’s the status of our beloved ‘Stros.
Outfielder Michael Brantley will sit out the remainder of the 2022 season after undergoing an arthroscopic labral repair on his right shoulder. Rotating between left fielder and designated hitter alongside Astros big man Yordan Álvarez, Brantley was hitting .288 with 26 runs batted in and 5 home runs before his last game on June 26. This season, the Astros also lost veteran catcher Jason Castro following knee surgery to repair his left meniscus.
Back on the mound
Losing a star player at the start of the playoffs was a tough pill to swallow in 2021, but the team still managed to reach the World Series, and they’ve bounced right back in 2022. Pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. made his long-awaited return to the diamond this past weekend, throwing for six scoreless innings in the 8-0 win against the A’s on August 13. After the Astros lost McCullers during the 2021 American League Division Series due to a right forearm injury amid a stellar season, the pitcher completed rehab assignments with the Corpus Christi Hooks and Sugar Land Space Cowboys, bidding to rejoin the team’s pitching rotation and finish what he started last October.
Welcome to Space City
There’s always a method to the madness—with the August 2 trade deadline looming and needing to fill the voids left by the injuries of Brantley and Castro, Astros general manager James Click made calculated behind-the-scenes shifts so the team wouldn’t miss a beat. The team acquired outfielder and first baseman Trey Mancini from the Baltimore Orioles, catcher Christian Vasquez from the Boston Red Sox, and reliever Will Smith from the Atlanta Braves to add more depth to the 40-man roster.
With a playoff spot secured, the Astros are still putting on outstanding performances on offense and defense. Pitcher Justin Verlander leads the AL with a 1.95 ERA and is a favorite to win the AL Cy Young award with an MLB-leading 15 wins. Third baseman Alex Bregman continues to be unstoppable, as he leads the team with 20 RBI post–All-Star Break and is tied with designated hitter/left fielder Yordan Álvarez with 5 home runs. Right fielder Kyle Tucker, crowned by the fans “King Tuck,” recorded his third career grand slam in the 5-2 victory over the Oakland A’s on August 12 and ranks 11th in the league in stolen bases this year.
What to watch for
The postseason is slated to begin October 7 with the Wild Card series and culminate with the World Series scheduled for October 28 to November 5. The Astros’ remaining schedule could be a smooth one to end the season, as they will not face other division leaders such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, or New York Mets. They will, though, face off in 3–4 game series against numerous teams looking to ensure playoff berths, including the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, and Tampa Bay Rays.
With the support of their die-hard fans, the ‘Stros are ready to take the title back and paint the city of Houston orange once again come October—fighting to gain both respect and a championship title while holding the Commissioner’s Trophy in the air.