It's playoff baseball time once again here in Houston. For some fans, the ALDS sweep of the Cleveland Indians have served as a reward for surviving yet another marathon, 162-game regular season schedule. All of the treks to the ballpark across scorching asphalt mid-summer, all of the subsequent waiting in Minute Maid Park's woefully mismanaged entry lines, all the games caught at a bar or listened to in a car...all of it was for this.
You can all put away your September baseball advent calendars and stock up on heartburn medicine, because you made it.
For other fans, the interest is a bit more of a “rooting” one and less of a “living and breathing” one. You may have checked the standings here and there and caught a game or two, but by and large it wasn't that big of a deal. This the fan who knows that Jose Altuve is “the short one that can hit,” and still yells “Woo!” after the anything positive happens in the game. The goal with this guide is to make sure fans like you sound like a legit pro when talking to your friends about the Astros for the next week.
Astros players to know
Alex Bregman: Third Baseman. Went absolutely bonkers hitting the baseball in June and basically carried the Astros through the season offensively. Played his way into the MVP conversation, but probably won't win because the guys that will started a lot hotter. Have you noticed that when the Astros hit home runs they flash a “blue steel” pose at the nearest dugout camera? Bregman started that. And he's crazy clutch. Let's practice a scenario:
Bregman walks up to bat with runners on the bases. Take a sip of your beer, lean over and explain that “we're basically guaranteed a run because everyone knows how clutch Bregman is.” Be sure to be smug about it. Die hard baseball fans will only give you information in a smug declarative tone.
Justin Verlander: Pitcher. Ace. A veteran and really good. Currently in the conversation for the Cy Young award this year. Verlander is the big daddy of the locker room, second only to the manager, and sometimes I question even that. Currently also the husband to Kate Upton, which at least four people will bring up. That one guy that showed up to watch the game only because people are there and thinks baseball is dumb? He's going to call him “Kate Upton's husband” because he thinks snarky humor is actually funny. Ignore him.
Jose Altuve: Second Base. 2017 AL MVP. The most consistent bat the Astros have and also the most perfect height for noogie. Altuve started the playoffs last season with three — three — home runs in game one. Don't make height jokes while you're watching, they're overplayed and I already did it for you.
Gerrit Cole: Pitcher. Strikes everyone out. Even you. Voted best hair on the team by me, only slightly edging out outfielder Jake Marisnick and first baseman Yuli Gurriel. His nickname is “Cole Train,” so in game two pepper that in to sound informed.
You, post-strikeout: “Atta boy, Cole train!”
Carlos Correa: Shortstop. Defensive stud. He will make throws that make you go “wait, what?” He's usually a good hitter, but hurt his back this season and has been hitting pretty poorly lately. Say something like “We really need Correa to heat back up. He's just been trying too hard and needs to stop trying to do too much at the plate.” No one will argue it, because you sound like you have a finger on the pulse of the team.
Dallas Keuchel: Pitcher. He's the one with the long, overly manscaped beard. Showed his butt in The Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine. Wasn't bad. He doesn't strike people out as much as Verlander and Cole, rather he relies on fooling batters into swinging at bad pitches. They do, and it usually results in a ground out. He was bad in the beginning of the season, but leveled out after the all star break. Want to sound smart for game three? Drop this on your buddies: “He usually gives up most of his runs in the first inning. After that he settles in, so if we get through that we're golden.”
This story continues on SportsMap.