Mandatory Credit: Photo by Abbie Parr/AP/Shutterstock (13467665cs) Houston Astros pitcher Cristian Javier, center, celebrates after his team defeated the Seattle Mariners in Game 3 of an American League Division Series baseball game, in Seattle ALDS Astros Mariners Baseball, Seattle, United States - 15 Oct 2022

With Seattle in the rear-view mirror, there could be more great things ahead for the Astros

Now that the Astros have advanced to a sixth consecutive American League Championship series, it’s time to look ahead to what is next. Game 1 will be Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.

Jeremy Pena’s 18th-inning home run did more than just sweep the series against Seattle. It set the Astros up perfectly for the next round from a pitching perspective. Justin Verlander will be ready to go Game 1 with more than a week’s rest. The bullpen, which was so excellent in Game 3, will have three days rest. The Astros depth really showed in Game 3; having a pitcher like Luis Garcia available for five innings of work was one of the big differences in the game.

Meanwhile, everything seems to be falling into place for the Astros. The Guardians walked off the Yankees last night to take a 2-1 lead in their divisional series. Houston will either get Cleveland or a New York team that will have stressed its pitching staff to get through this round. It will be an advantage for an Astros team that despite the series win has some things that could improve.

No. 1 on that list is Jose Altuve, who went 0-for-16 and only reached base one time in the series. If he gets it going, the Astros will be even better. With Pena’s emergence, a hot Altuve makes the row of Altuve-Pena-Alvarez-Bregman-Tucker a nightmare for pitchers. And don’t look now, but Yuli Gurriel is hitting the ball again.

Verlander will pitch better than he did in Game 1. Framber Valdez could be better than he was in Game 2.

On the other side of the bracket, all chaos has broken loose. The Braves were ousted by the Phillies. The Dodgers were stunned by San Diego. If the Yankees fall, the Astros will be the last of the favorites left. While that does not mean much, it still bodes well.

So yes there is still a lot of work to be done. But things are looking great for the Astros beyond beating the Mariners.

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