HOUSTON (KIAH) — Dusty Baker doesn’t show much emotion that much as a manger. But don’t fool yourself, he’s ready for another run with the Houston Astros to make another chase for his elusive World Series ring.
“I’m excited. I may not look it, but I am,” Baker said after Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia to end a 2022 season that saw the Astros win 106 games, best in the American League. Only the 2019 team has won more games in team history, but that team fell short of a World Series title.
Houston will have to wait until Tuesday, Oct. 13 to begin its 2022 postseason run in the American League Division Series. The Astros will host either the Toronto Blue Jays or the Seattle Mariners in a best-of-5 series. Toronto and Seattle will face each other in a best-of-3 Wild Card series in Canada this weekend.
The Astros are a ball club that once again has all the tools to win a title. Houston boasts not one, but two pitchers that are contenders for the Cy Young Award in the American League.
Justin Verlander leads the AL in wins (18), ERA (1.74), and opponent batting average (.186), just to name a few. But after missing almost two seasons to recover from Tommy John surgery to come back and pitch at a high level is something that rarely happens at the major-league level.
Meanwhile, left-hander Framber Valdez also had an outstanding season, setting a new major-league record with 25 straight quality starts in a single season.
“(Framber) pitched great all year,” Baker said. “He had only a couple of bad starts all year long, and he was as consistent as anyone in the league (this year).
“For him and for JV to win 18 (games), that’s a pretty good 1-2 punch.”
The bullpen is also strong, with right-hander Ryne Stanek finishing the season with a 1.15 ERA, the lowest ERA for an Astro reliever in team history. Closer Ryan Pressley had 33 saves with a 2.98 ERA.
Offensively, the Astro bats have been steady and strong. Second baseman Jose Altuve finished the week hot to raise his batting average to .300, while designated hitter Yordan Alvarez battled through a sore hand to still hit .302 and 37 home runs.
If the Astros can get past the Blue Jays or Mariners, it would be their fifth consecutive appearance in the American League Championship Series. Only one other AL team has made it to five straight ALCS in history: the Oakland A’s did it in 1971 to 1974.