The Houston Astros had every reason to believe 2018 was the start of a dynasty. After winning the World Series for the first time in franchise history last year, the Astros entered this season even stronger.
The team’s deadly core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman was still intact, and the dominant pitching staff — which already featured Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. — was bolstered by the arrival of Gerrit Cole. The 2018 Astros were supposed to be special.
Instead, they ended the season like every other team, with a loss. The Boston Red Sox eliminated the reigning World Series champs from the postseason Thursday, beating the Astros 4-1 in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
When a team with high expectations loses prematurely, there’s a tendency to ask what went wrong? There’s an impulse to painstakingly overanalyze every moment in every game, desperately hoping to find that one thing that helps make sense of the defeat.
There were plenty of factors that contributed to the Astros losing to the Red Sox, but none of them add logic to the loss.
It’s impossible to explain how David Price reversed his postseason curse on short rest against one of the best offenses in baseball. It’s just as hard to give reason to Jackie Bradley Jr. suddenly hitting like Ted Williams or to Andrew Benintendi being in the exact right spot to make a game-saving catch in Game 4. And good luck trying to decipher why Verlander had his worst postseason start in years with the Astros’ season on the line.
Baseball is not a logical game. A bases-loaded rally can end on a line drive smashed directly at the third baseman, and a bad hop can eat up an otherwise exceptional fielder. Some might call that luck. Others might say it’s just baseball.
Over the course of a 162-game season, those types of plays are easier to overcome. In a seven-game series against another strong team, they can be the difference.
Against a more forgiving team, perhaps the Astros could have come out on top. But the Red Sox were evenly matched with the Astros from the start. A few things may not have gone the Astros’ way in the ALCS, but they lost because they were outplayed. Boston was the better team for five games. That’s why they are moving on.
For the Astros, the loss is just a blip in the road. The team is set to bring back the exact same core in 2019. If they don’t add a single player during the offseason, the Astros will enter next year as one of the most complete teams in baseball.
The Astros’ loss in the 2018 ALCS doesn’t mean their dynasty is over. It’s merely on hold.
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