2018 Houston Astros
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2018 Houston Astros / Franchise: Houston Astros / BR Team Page
Managed by A.J. Hinch
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2018 Houston Astros came into the season as the defending World Champions, an unfamiliar position given their win in seven games over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the series the previous November had been a first in franchise history. Still, no one expected much of a hangover, as the team was still very young, and had managed to improve on an already strong group of starting pitchers with the acquisition of P Gerrit Cole in the off-season, while not losing any significant part. Veteran DH Carlos Beltran had retired after the World Series, but his contribution the previous year had been limited, as he was already well on the down side of a brilliant career. The main concern remained the bullpen, which had been shaken badly in the postseason, forcing manager A.J. Hinch to rely on multiple-inning stints by unexpected pitchers to compensate for the struggles of short relievers like Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris.
The Astros showed they were still a force to be reckoned with in early June, when they reeled off a club record 12 straight wins from June 6-18, to improve to 49-25. They were again in first place in the AL West, 2 games ahead of the surprising Seattle Mariners. On June 20th, they became the first major league team to 50 wins by slugging four homers, including a pair by Jose Altuve in a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. On June 28th, they tied a club record with their 11th straight road win.
The Astros still had a comfortable six-game lead atop the AL West on July 24th when, in one of the season's turning points, 2B Jose Altuve went down with an injury. He was not the only player to miss time around that period, and the results on the field were immediate, as Houston lost 12 of its next 19 games and on August 18th, following a 7-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics, they fell into a first-place tie with the A's, with the latter clearly the hotter team at that point. During that stretch, on July 30th, the Astros made a very unpopular trade when they sent struggling closer Giles and two prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays in returned for Roberto Osuna, who was still serving a 75-game suspension for domestic violence and faced outstanding criminal charges stemming from an incident in May. Many of the team's players criticized management for going out to trade for such a troubled player. Still, the Astros managed to create a but of a cushion over the A's over the last weeks of August and first weeks of September, and on September 21st, they clinched a postseason slot with an 11-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels and on September 25th they clinched their second straight AL West title. It was also the team's 100th win of the season, the second straight year they had reached the mark, and only the third in their history.
The Astros set a new major league mark for most strikeouts in a season as their pitchers combined for 1,687 Ks. That came during a season in which both leagues set a record for most strikeouts.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, George Springer and Justin Verlander
- AL Gold Glove: Dallas Keuchel (P)
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Jose Altuve (2B)
- Ted Berg: "Astros offseason report: Club loaded, eyeing a repeat", USA Today Sports, February 24, 2018. 
- Richard Justice: "Astros to test championship mettle in ALCS: Hinch says club is prepared; players eager to face Red Sox", mlb.com, October 11, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Astros are baseball's most dominant force — and they're having more fun than you", USA Today, July 16, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Astros may have the 'nastiest' rotation ever - and thanks to Trevor Bauer, they're mad, too", USA Today Sports, May 7, 2018. 
- Mike Petriello: "Astros' arms look even better than 2017 champs: Full seasons of Verlander, Cole likely to boost already-strong staff", mlb.com, April 11, 2018. 
- Bill Whitehead: "Hinch likes what he sees as season nears: Astros manager pleased with squad's performance this spring", mlb.com, March 13, 2018.