Baseball, as with many things in life, can become jibber-jabber when scrutinized too closely, tossed around from each and every angle. The playoffs in particular have a habit of elevating up-close, short-term narratives.
The Astros can’t hit because they scored just seven runs in the past three games against the Rays. The Astros are in trouble because they dropped back-to-back contests in St. Petersburg to set up a Game 5. The Astros might as well forfeit because Mercury is mere weeks from returning to retrograde. And so forth.
But like repeating the same word or phrase over and over in your head until it turns to nonsense, magnifying these talking points just results in meaningless analytical soup. It’s an attachment to recency bias in its most extreme form.
Here are the eight reasons Astros fans should be confident entering Thursday’s winner-take-all tilt: Each spot but one in Houston’s batting order will occupied by a player who was significantly above average offensively in the regular season. While the lineup has had a couple of duds against Tampa Bay, it is more likely to perform at its natural talent level than at its recent small sample size numbers.
That many Astros hitters have already delivered memorable postseason moments in the past offers further reassurance.
Manager A.J. Hinch focused on that point after Houston lost 4-1 in Game 4.
“We have an incredible lineup,” Hinch told reporters. “We’ll relish this opportunity.”
From veterans George Springer and Jose Altuve to younger guys like rookie Yordan Alvarez, the Astros possess plenty of firepower.
The only likely member of the lineup who has not been above average offensively in 2019 is Josh Reddick, who has a long history in his career of success against right-handed pitchers. Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow will start, and right-hander Charlie Morton could also feature from the bullpen.
It’s possible, of course, that the Rays’ staff does manage another shutdown performance. But if Glasnow and Co. manage to dominate, it should be considered more of a feat for Tampa Bay than an indictment of Houston’s bats.
The Astros have already proven they have one of baseball’s most dangerous offenses. They just need it to do what it’s done for most of this season.
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