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Know your enemy: Houston Astros

These guys are good. Really good.

FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (yes, its real name!), spring home of the Astros
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Astros embarked on a rebuild similar to the Cubs, and as of now have a rebuild record similar to the Cubs: three postseason appearances in the last four years, and one World Series title.

They’ve got something the Cubs don’t, though: Two straight 100+ win seasons, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason they won’t do that again.

This team is loaded with starts: Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer, and that’s only half their everyday lineup. The other regulars aren’t too shabby, either: Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel, new catcher Robinson Chirinos and free-agent signee Michael Brantley, who had a fine year in 2018, healthy after some injury-plagued seasons.

Then there’s the pitching staff, anchored by a rejuvenated Justin Verlander, complemented by Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh and Wade Miley, who was really good for the Brewers last year. (It remains to be seen if that was a fluke; last time Miley was an A.L. pitcher with the Orioles, he was awful.)

The bullpen is solid, with Roberto Osuna returning as closer, and good setup men in former Cub Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski and Will Harris.

Heck, just give them the division title already and be done with it.

It’s never that easy, of course; guys get hurt or have down years, and the Astros do have a very good Oakland ballclub to contend with in the A.L. West. On the other hand, the Astros went 46-30 (.605) within the division last year, which is a 98-win pace for a season. And they crushed bad teams; combined against the White Sox, Giants, Tigers, Royals and Orioles they went 27-3. That’s exactly how you run away with things, beat up on the weak teams and do well in your own division.

I can’t say anything bad about this team. They’re well-run and well-managed and have great players.

The last time the Cubs and Astros met was in the Cubs’ World Series year of 2016. The Astros missed the wild card spots by five games. The Cubs took two of three from them in Houston in September 2016, so maybe they’ll be out for revenge. It’s entirely possible the Cubs and Astros could meet in the 2019 World Series.

Until then, we know they’ll meet for three games this year, again in Houston, May 27-28-29.