2019 Houston Astros
2019 Houston Astros / Franchise: Houston Astros / BR Team Page
Managed by A.J. Hinch
History, Comments, Contributions
Coming off an appearance in the 2018 American League Championship Series and only one year removed from their win in the 2017 World Series, the 2019 Houston Astros entered the season with big ambitions. The core of their championship season was still around, with key players such as OF George Springer, 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman and 1B Lourdes Gourriel all returning, along with Ps Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who had been outstanding after his acquisition prior to the 2018 season. The bullpen had been reconstructed around two late-season acquisitions, Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly, and was another strength on a team that really had few question marks. While they had lost utility man Marwin Gonzalez and Ps Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel to free agency, and P Lance McCullers to Tommy John surgery, they had also added some good players, with OF Michael Brantley, IF Aledmys Diaz, C Robinson Chirinos and P Wade Miley the key names.
The Astros started the year slowly, as after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-1, on Opening Day, March 28th, they lost 5 of their next 6 games. That was just a glitch, however, as they proceeded to put together a ten-game winning streak from April 5-15 to move into first place for the first time. They finished April with a record of 18-12 and a one-game lead in the AL West, and then turned it up another notch in May as they put together their second ten-game winning streak in as many months, this one from May 8-18th. In fact, that streak was part of a stretch of 13 wins in 14 games, giving the team a record of 31-15, matching the best start in franchise history. The team was firing on all cylinders at that point, with Springer leading the American League in a slew of hitting categories, including hits, runs homers, RBIs, total bases and OPS+. For its part, the bullpen tandem of Osuna and Pressly had combined to allow just 1 run in 40 1/3 innings! In fact, on May 17th, Pressly had set a new major league record with his 39th consecutive scoreless appearance dating back to the previous year. Verlander was also putting together one of his vintage seasons, with a record of 7-1, 2.38 after 10 starts. On June 12th, he recorded a personal best 15 strikeouts in 7 innings in a start against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, the Astros notched a team-record 24 strikeouts in 14 innings and won, 6-3.
The Astros hit their first road bump in June when they lost seven straight games, a first for them since 2015. Still they had a winning record for the month, 15-12, and had a solid 6 1/2 game lead on June 30th. They then resumed their torrid pace in July when they went 16-8 to increase the lead to 8 games. They were busy at the trading deadline, with four separate deals on July 31st. In the most spectacular one, they acquired front-line starter Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for their three top prospects - Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin - as well as a fourth minor leaguer, Josh Rojas. They also strengthened their bullpen by adding Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini in what was the third straight year in which they had made a deal for a pitching with the Toronto Blue Jays at the deadline. This one only cost them minor league OF Derek Fisher, who had once been a top prospect himself but had failed to produce at the major league level and was getting on in years. They also traded OF/IF Tony Kemp, who had been a useful spare part the last couple of years but had had to be designated for assignment because of a roster crunch and received C Martin Maldonado from the Chicago Cubs in return. Maldonado had been part of the team for the stretch run the year before; to make room for him, they sent back-up C Max Stassi to the Los Angeles Angels in return for a couple of low-level prospects. These moves made them the odd-on favorite for the World Series.
The trade with the Blue Jays paid immediate dividends, as in Sanchez's first start with his new team on August 3rd, he pitched 6 hitless innings against the Seattle Mariners, then Will Harris, Biagini - also making his first Astros appearance - and Chris Devenski - followed with a hitless inning each to combine for the 9th no-hitter in franchise history. The Astros won the game, 9-0. The Astros had another memorable game in Sanchez's next start on August 10th, as they set franchise records for runs (23) and extra-base hits (13) in demolishing the Baltimore Orioles, 23-2. Rookie DH Yordan Alvarez, who had been unstoppable since his call-up in June, twice winning the AL Rookie of the Month Award, led the onslaught with a three-homer game, including a grand slam, scoring 4 runs and driving in 7. He now had 51 RBIs in just 45 games, erasing a record set by Ted Williams. Five different players had 3 or more hits in the game, as Houston collected 25 hits. On September 1st, less than a month after Sanchez's feat, it was Justin Verlander's turn to throw a no-hitter, although this one was a complete game effort against the Blue Jays. He allowed just one walk and received support from rookie Abraham Toro, called up just ten days earlier, who hit a two-run homer in the 9th that provided all the scoring in a 2-0 win. On September 8th, Gerrit Cole almost matched Verlander's feat when he pitched 8 innings of one-hit ball against the Mariners; he walked none and struck out 15 and the only hit he allowed was a solo homer by Shed Long in a 21-1 win. He became only the second pitcher ever, after Pedro Martinez, to strike out 14 or more batters in three consecutive starts. The next day, the Astros destroyed the Oakland Athletics, 15-0. They set another record by hitting 6 homers in the first two innings in that game, and the combined scored of 36-1 over two games was also completely unprecedented. Two of the homers were hit by rookie sensation Alvarez, including one that reached the upper right-field deck at Minute Maid Park, something only achieved once previously in the ballpark's history. They added a seventh homer later in the game to tie the team's record, set on the same day in 2000.
The Astros clinched their third straight division title on September 22nd, defeating the Angels, 13-5. Two of their most dominant players during the season were at the center of things: Justin Verlander recorded his 20th win and George Springer had the first three-homer game of his career. On September 28th, a 6-3 win over the Angels clinched home field advantage throughout the postseason for the Astros. In that game, Verlander set two more milestones while recording 12 strikeouts: he became the 18th pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts in his career, and also reached the 300 mark in a season for the first time. Cole joined him as a 20-game winner on the season's final day, having already passed the 300-strikeout mark. Cole also ended up leading the circuit in ERA. Houston as a team led the American League in both OPS+ by their batters, and lowest OPS+ surrendered by their pitchers, an extremely rare occurrence. They also became the first team to go an entire season without issuing a single intentional walk.
The team was hit by a scandal in the postseason, as during the celebrations over their win against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman repeatedly yelled some highly inappropriate remarks at a group of female reporters, stating was "Thank God we got Osuna. I'm (expletive deleted) glad we got Osuna", a clear reference to Osuna's former run-ins with the law and suspension by MLB for domestic abuse allegations, an outburst that was particularly ironic given Osuna had almost cost the Astros the title game with an ill-timed two-run gopher ball to D.J. LeMahieu. The Astros at first tried to deny the incident as an outright fabrication by the reporters, but unfortunately for them, there were many witnesses who corroborated the original account. They were then forced to backtrack and apologize (although it was not a particularly heartfelt one) and it was likely that Major League Baseball would issue some punishment regarding the embarrassing incident. On October 24th, the Astros fired Taubman, citing not only his comments, but the fact he had then lied to team officials about them. More damaging allegations surfaced after the World Series, as former pitcher Mike Fiers indicated that the team had put together a sophisticated sign-stealing operation during the 2017 season - one which may still have been in play during the year, prompting another investigation.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Gerrit Cole, Ryan Pressly, George Springer and Justin Verlander
- AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander
- AL Rookie of the Year: Yordan Alvarez
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Alex Bregman (3B) and George Springer (OF)
- 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Yordan Alvarez (DH)
- Gabe Lacques: "'A blessing and a curse': Astros' talent overload creates gridlock for MLB-ready players", USA Today',, August 13, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "With latest sign-stealing revelations, Houston Astros once again toe baseball's ethical lines", USA Today, November 12, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Will Astros sign-stealing revelations lead MLB into a bottomless pit of scandals?", USA Today, November 18, 2019. 
- Mike Lupica: "Hinch on '19 Astros: 'I love our team': Manager confident in roster, playoff experience as Houston pushes for another World Series title", mlb.com, March 25, 2019. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Astros deal for Greinke in Deadline stunner: Houston gives up 3 of top 5 prospects for former Cy Young winner", mlb.com, July 31, 2019. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Historic Astros debut for Sanchez: Combo no-no", mlb.com, August 4, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Astros dominate opponents behind powerful offense, spectacular pitching", USA Today, September 10, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Astros fire assistant GM Brandon Taubman, apologize for his tirade toward female reporters", USA Today, October 24, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "'This tarnishes everything': Astros cheating allegations have baseball world demanding punishment", USA Today, November 14, 2019. 
- Andrew Simon: "Potent Astros offense is making history", mlb.com, September 9, 2019.