The World Series Champion Houston Astros will begin the defense of their trophy at home as they take on the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, March 30. That is the first of a four-game series against the White Sox, a series that is immediately followed by three games at home against the Detroit Tigers.
The Astros then take their show on the road for a pair of three-game sets with the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates, before returning to the Lone Star state to face the in-state rival Texas Rangers. Series against the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies round out the home commitments for the Astros in April.
Here are three questions for the Astros ahead of the 2023 season.
Three Key Questions
Can they sustain success?
Professional sports are all about championship windows. The Houston Astros won the American League in 2021. They then went one better and won the World Series in 2022 as they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies. While the other teams in the AL West try to catch up – watch out for the Seattle Mariners who won 90 games last year and STILL finished 16 games behind the Astros – the Houston club should be right in the mix again at the end of this season. Sustaining success is difficult, but the Astros have a captivating mix of young pitching and a lineup built to withstand injuries and dips in form with its depth. This team isn’t going anywhere.
Does losing Justin Verlander hurt?
Verlander might be 38 years old, but he is coming off of a season with Houston where he won the Cy Young Award for the third time. The fact he was a unanimous choice says everything about his season, as does the face he was tempted away from Houston by the New York Mets throwing $86.7 million at him over two years. Verlander will be missed, but the arms that the Astos have on their payroll means that it might be just a few games lost at the end of the day. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier led a pitching staff that runs seven or eight deep. They will still be dominant on the mound even without the most dominant pitcher in the game.
Can Jose Altuve adjust?
The 2017 MVP had a .921 OPS last season and was dominant for much of it at the play. Altuve is one of the best-hitting middle infielders in the game, but he was bad in the 2022 postseason. Pitchers consistently found a hole in his swing high in the zone and with a ton of pace on the ball. At 32 – and about to turn 33 – those types of weaknesses begin to appear. Altuve likely spent most of the winter figuring out how to slap that particular pitch, so it will be interesting to see if that adjustment shows early in the year.