The Houston Astros may have been dethroned in the AL West by the relentless Oakland Athletics. They may be public enemy No. 1 for baseball fans following the revelation of their elaborate sign-stealing scandal. And who knows, the 2020 version might not even be that good.
Yet despite it all, they are postseason bound.
Ironically, the Astros clinched Friday night thanks to the Dodgers 9-5 win against the Angels. Those same Dodgers lost to Houston in the 2017 World Series, when the sign-stealing was reportedly at its height. Those same Dodgers also had bad blood with Houston earlier this season, which stemmed from the sign-stealing. Now they’ve done Houston a favor.
The Astros are going to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. It’s the first time in franchise history the Astros have made the playoffs in four straight seasons.
They also round out the AL postseason season field, with the Blue Jays clinching the second AL wild-card spot earlier in the night. The field of eight is the Rays, A’s, Twins, Yankees, Indians, White Sox, the Jays and Astros.
While 2020 hasn’t been good for most, the circumstances have somehow benefited the Astros. Playing in empty stadiums has prevented them from hearing and feeling disdain from baseball fans. Beyond that, the expanded postseason format has seemingly allowed them to reach a postseason they otherwise would not have.
At 29-28, Houston has just the eighth-best record in the American League. Prior to 2020, only five teams from each league qualified for the postseason.
It might not seem fair, but those are the rules. At least this season. Unlike the last few seasons, everyone is playing by the same rules. Houston included.
Also true is that Houston won’t be entering the postseason at anything close to full strength. Ace right-hander Justin Verlander is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Relievers Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock and Chris Devinski are also out for the season, as is designated hitter Yordan Alvarez. It’s also clear Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are playing at less than 100 percent.
It will be a difficult road for this Astros team to navigate, but simply getting in gives them a fighting chance.
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