The Houston Astros ended up prevailing in the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, four games to two.
They had some stellar performers, headlined by ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez.
However, not every piece of the lineup or the rotation was as good as advertised: some players struggled.
It’s baseball; it happens.
However, if Houston wants to mount a serious challenge at beating the Atlanta Braves and winning the World Series, these players need to step up.
3. Michael Brantley
Generally speaking, the Astros offense is in a really good place as they head to the World Series.
They scored 36 runs in six contests against the Red Sox in the ALCS, or six per game.
That’s some healthy run-scoring power.
Yet, a name that is usually associated with offensive excellence, Michael Brantley, wasn’t able to produce much against Boston.
Brantley, who batted .311 during the 2021 regular season, hit .269/.269/.308 with a .577 OPS against the Sox.
He had seven hits, but only one went for extra bases (a double) and didn’t draw any walks.
The especially troubling part of his performance is the lack of power: a.308 slugging percentage is very disappointing.
Additionally, he only hit eight round-trippers in 121 regular season games.
It’s certainly something to keep an eye on, as the Astros need vintage Brantley to step up against the Braves.
2. Zack Greinke
There are several red flags with Zack Greinke at the moment.
First, he struggled in his only ALCS start, giving up two runs in only 1.1 innings against Boston in Game 4.
Greinke, usually dependable in the playoffs, was pitching for the first time in a month.
Maybe the rust affected him, but his control was off (three walks) and he didn’t strike out anyone.
Greinke has zero control right now. He's rusty only 3.1 IP before tonight in the last month
— Steve (@goingtopshelf) October 20, 2021
Then, we have the fact that the Astros may leave him off the World Series roster, although it seems unlikely given that they won’t have Lance McCullers.
Greinke had a 4.16 regular season ERA in 2021, but it came with a solid 1.17 WHIP.
He has become homer-prone as he ages, and is already 38 years old.
However, he is savvy enough to give the Astros a fine five or six-inning outing in Game 3 or 4 of the Fall Classic.
He needs to step up.
1. Jose Urquidy
Right-hander Jose Urquidy is expected to start Game 3 for the Astros in the World Series.
That’s the same game he started in the ALCS against Boston, and things didn’t go so well.
That night, Urquidy stayed on the mound for just 1.2 innings, surrendering six runs (five of which were earned), including a grand slam.
His defense was to blame, too, so it wasn’t just him: if Jose Altuve had handled what looked like a double-play ball, Urquidy could have gotten out of a second-inning jam with only one run scored against him.
That didn’t happen, and the Altuve error preceded a grand slam.
I know people are down on Urquidy but how much of Game 3 can be pinned on him? That game looks a lot different without that Altuve error.
— RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) October 20, 2021
The Astros need Urquidy to be at his best, closer to the pitcher who had a 3.62 ERA in 107 regular season frames.
His ALCS ERA, however, sat at an ugly 27.00 instead.
He is more than capable of giving Houston, at the very least, a quality start.