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Powerful Astros poised for another series title

Columnist Bruce Pention says the Houston Astros are baseball's team to beat
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Houston, we don’t have a problem. We have a baseball power.

An embarrassment of riches both on the mound and at the plate should be enough to make Houston Astros the favourites to win the 2019 World Series.

The Astros, one of two American League teams with more than 100 victories as the regular season came to a close, were already stacked on the mound before they added Zack Greinke from Arizona and Aaron Sanchez from Toronto at the July 31 trade deadline.

How strong are they on the mound? Well, manager A.J. Hinch can call on two guys who might be 1-2 in the majors in the rankings of pitchers: Justin Verlander, the likely Cy Young Award winner, and Gerrit Cole. The addition of Greinke likely means that Wade Miley, who put together a 15-win season, will be shunted to the bullpen for the playoffs, since a starting staff of three is usually enough in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.

And can the Astros hit? Uh, yes. Their run differential with a week to play in the 162-game season was plus-265, 60 better than their closest American League rival (the Yankees) and about 25 higher than the NL’s best, the Dodgers.

Averaging a major-league best 5.7 runs per game and a .276 team batting average, the Astros were humming along with offensive stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Mickey Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel and then added rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez at mid-season, turning the Houston club into a virtual murderers’ row. All Alvarez did in half a season was belt 27 home runs, drive in 78, and hit for a .316 average. Houston’s 1-through-6 in the batting order of Springer (.295), Altuve (.301), Brantley (.318), Bregman (.295), Alvarez (.316) and Correa (.280) is the most intimidating lineup in the bigs.

OK, so we’ve established that Houston is the favourite to win the World Series, but it’s hardly guaranteed. The Yankees also won more than 100 games and have a now-healthy lineup nearly equal in offensive power. In the National League, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are the class of the senior circuit, and both are stacked on offence and in pitching.

It says here, however, that the best team in baseball is Houston and they will be crowned champs for the second time in three years in late October.

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  • Omaha’s Brad Dickson on Twitter: “What names did Lovie Smith's parents reject before they went with something that sounds like a type of Pampers?”
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