HOUSTON — As we approach the start of the baseball playoffs next weeks, there’s lots of excitement surrounding the Houston Astros.
And for good reason. The Astros own the best record in the big leagues at 102-54 and need two more victories in their final six games to set a franchise record for victories in a season.
The Astros could be making history as the first team to have the most pitching strikeouts and the fewest strikeouts at the plate in the same season since strikeouts were first tracked in 1913.
The pitching record is courtesy of their three aces, including Gerritt Cole, who became the first Houston pitcher to notch 300 strikeouts in a season since Mike Scott in 1986.
“These guys go out there and they pretty much shut the other team down from the first pitch on,” Houston outfielder George Springer said. “It’s pretty cool defensively, gets a little boring sometimes but it's all good."
The Astros’ mound talent is staggering to watch on a nightly basis, according to Houston Astros on-field reporter Julia Morales said.
“We didn't think we were ever going to see anything like what they did in 2018, with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, and then they follow it up with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, competing for the Cy Young Award at the top.”
Springer says that the Astros’ mound talent make them tough to beat.
“To know that whoever we're playing is going to have to go against JV, Cole and Zack, that's a pretty mentally draining perspective to get those three guys,” Springer said. “But for us it's going to be about doing what our team knows how to do and we'll see what happens."
The Astros credit all of their success to the chemistry of their clubhouse as they gun for their second world championship in the franchise’s 58-season history. They won their first world championship in 2017.
But this team is so focused on winning, many players didn't realize their hitters have struck out fewer times than any other team.
"I didn't even know that our team struck out the least or whatever is that we do until someone told me,” Springer said. “And I think that in a game where it's pretty much strike out, walk, or home run, that's a pretty cool dynamic to see."
Morales said the team’s hitting style steers them away from strikeouts.
“It's a very good lineup that's contact hitters, they're patient and the plate and they just don't strike out,” Morales said.
The Astros flash that philosophy up and down their lineup.
“Hit the pitch that you want to hit, get to it and put the ball in play,” Springer said. “It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of."
With the American League West Division title already clinched, the Astros are now gearing up for a postseason – the team’s fourth in the last six season – with hopes of another world championship.
If they keep striking out hitters and avoiding those strikeouts at the plate, they’ve got a great chance.
“The post season is why we play this game,” Springer said. “This place (Minute Maid Park) will be rockin, it always is, the fans love post season and I’m looking forward to it.”