HOUSTON – One year ago at this time, the Astros had just locked up the AL West division title and were about to embark on a journey that would take them all the way to their first World Series championship in a Game 7 victory over the Dodgers.
That was then and this is now.
2018 has been another stellar season for the Astros, but the offseason brought a few changes and one of them was a change to the starting rotation when the team landed Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.
All Cole has done this season is dominate teams and turn in phenomenal numbers to go with his first year in Houston.
How did the Cole Train do over the last six months for A.J. Hinch’s rotation? He finished with 200 innings of work in 32 starts and an impressive 15-5 record. He also racked up huge numbers in the strikeout category, sending 276 players back to the dugout shaking their heads. Cole closed out the 2018 campaign with his final start on Friday in Baltimore and finished with an ERA of 2.88.
Cole’s presence in this Astros rotation is a big reason why the team finished with 103 wins this year, a franchise record. When the trade went down with the Pirates last winter, Cole knew exactly the environment he was stepping into. In Houston, since Hinch’s arrival in 2015, the clubhouse culture is full of respect and all about finding ways to win.
Cole will be well-rested when the ALDS opens against the Cleveland Indians. While Justin Verlander will get the ball in Game 1, it will be Cole’s turn to take the mound in Game 2 against an Indians lineup prone to strikeouts but one that is an AL Central champion and a World Series contender.
Every time Cole is out there on the bump, the Astros know a quality start is likely. Cole earned the quality status in 20 of his 32 starts in 2018. When it comes to locking down opponents' lineups, he’s about as steady as they come, allowing one run or less on 12 occasions during the regular season.