The last time these two clubs met was May 29, 2019. The Cubs won 2-1. Of the 23 men who played in that game, just one is on either team’s current active roster -- Alex Bregman.
Somehow, that seems like a very long time ago.
For more on the Astros, here’s William Metzger, managing editor of our SB Nation Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.
Is it World Series hangover?
Is it Injuries?
Is it just an early-season slump?
Will this be the year the Astros fail to make escape velocity?
The Astros have made the ALCS every year since 2017. They made the World Series four of those years and won the trophy twice. During that time, they have been the winningest team in the American League. The team that won it all last year is mostly intact this year.
And yet...The picture of consistency for six years, even with the losses of players like George Springer, Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton, the Astros suddenly find themselves mired in mediocrity. And one-fourth of the way through the season, they don’t seem to be getting off the ground.
Is it World Series hangover? Deep playoff runs haven’t affected them much before. But regression? Bullpen standouts from 2022 who had career years, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, and even Ryan Pressly, have struggled, responsible for losing five games between them with untimely meltdowns.
Injuries? Definitely a factor. The heart and soul of the Astros, Jose Altuve: Out. Mr. Professional Hitter, Uncle Mike (Brantley): Out. One of only three players left from the 2017 World Series roster, All-Star pitcher Lance McCullers: Out. The Astros gambled in the off-season that they had enough pitching depth to replace the departed Justin Verlander. Wrong. Jose Urquidy is on the IL. And Luis Garcia is out for the season with Tommy John.
Early-season slump? Astros fans hope so. Alex Bregman and new Astro, 2020 MVP Jose Abreu have OPS of .643 and .515, respectively. Slow starts are traditional for both players, but the lineup’s No. 2 and No. 4 hitters need to pick it up soon. As a team, the Astros are ranked 23rd in MLB in wRC+. During the playoff years, the Astros usually found themselves in the top five. And the Astros are 25th in home runs. For the most part, if the opposition can get Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker out, the rest of the lineup is not too dangerous. Alvarez is particularly potent with runners in scoring position and is tied for second in MLB with 37 RBI.
Team pitching has also regressed to a degree, but overall the Astros staff still boasts the third-best team ERA in baseball. But right now, the Astros only have two veteran starters, Framber Valdez, who destroyed the Angels on May 9, and Cristian Javier.
The season is still young, and with the pending return of currently injured All Stars, the Astros still have time and the talent to find their championship form.
One last word. Jose Altuve did not participate in the cheating scandal. And he is too loyal a teammate to say so and throw his teammates under the bus. For the proof, look here. If you want to yell at a cheater, Alex Bregman is the only one left on the Astros.
This may come as a surprise to those who remember the Cubs’ long-time futility in visits to Houston: They actually have a winning record there, 56-55, since the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park in 2000.
From 1962-99, at Colt Stadium and the Astrodome, the Cubs were just 92-155, a .372 winning percentage. During those years, the Cubs were swept at Houston in 18 series of three or more games, and won each game of only three such series.
At MMP, each team has swept two series. The Cubs’ last sweep was in 2006; the Astros’, in 2012.
The former division rivals have met in only three series since then: at Wrigley Field in 2013, the Astros’ first year in the American League, and at Houston in 2016 and 2019. The Cubs won two of three in the first of those series and lost two of three in the second.
The Cubs’ all-time winning percentage at Houston, .413, is their lowest at any current big league city where they have played more than 18 games.
(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)
Probable pitching matchups
Monday: Jameson Taillon, RHP (0-2, 6.41 ERA, 1.475 WHIP, 3.64 FIP) vs. Framber Valdez, LHP (3-4, 2.38 ERA, 1.038 WHIP, 3.04 FIP)
Tuesday: Justin Steele, LHP (6-0, 1.82 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 3.21 FIP) vs. Cristian Javier, RHP (3-1, 3.47 ERA, 1.007 WHIP, 3.35 FIP)
Wednesday: Drew Smyly, LHP (4-1, 3.05 ERA, 0.970 WHIP, 3.56 FIP) vs. J.P. France, RHP (1-0, 0.77 ERA, 0.686 WHIP, 3.80 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Tuesday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, TBS (no blackouts)
Wednesday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
The Astros are just 4-5 vs. LH starters and the Cubs have two of them going in this series. Houston’s muddling around .500 like the Cubs are. Maybe the Cubs can sneak out a series win.
The Cubs have Thursday off, then travel to Philadelphia to meet the Phillies in a three-game series which begins Friday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Astros?
This poll is closed