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The Houston Astros are currently second in the American League while the Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop the National League. If this seems like deja vu, you would be correct. Both teams stood in the same positions heading into the 2017 postseason five years ago. 

If these standings prove true in October, Houston's deep pitching staff could make the difference in another appearance in the World Series where a rematch with the Dodgers may be looming.

The Astros defeated Los Angeles 4-3 to claim the 2017 World Series title, due in large part to the offensive firepower of the AL Champions. Houston ranked in the top three in home runs, hits, RBI and stolen bases during its 2017 run, but the pitching staff ranked just fifth in ERA of all teams in the postseason (4.13). 

However, the 2022 MLB postseason could be a different story for Houston, as the Astros pitchers lead the League in quality starts with 52 and currently allow just 2.98 earned runs per game. 

The continued domination of AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, combined with the impressive play of Framber Valdez, José Urquidy and Ryan Pressly, creates a challenging task for any opposing team.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.

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Not to mention, Houston's firepower in the batter's box is still there as well. José Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel combined for 74 home runs and 259 RBI in 2017. 

The trio is part of the Astros core again this season, and all three have a history of getting hot in the playoffs. Throw in the additions of power hitters like Yordan Álvarez (.310/.409/.675), Kyle Tucker (.250/.339/.465) and Jeremy Peña (.263/.307/.449), and Houston is a force to be reckoned with.

Houston Astros' Yordan Álvarez, José Altuve and Yuri Gurriel

Houston Astros' Yordan Álvarez, José Altuve and Yuri Gurriel

The Astros have proved this recently, going 15-5 in their last 20 games. On the opposite side of MLB, only one team has a better record during that stretch: the Dodgers.

The National League leaders have the lowest ERA (2.96) in the league and are second in RBI (451), which is a recipe for success. However, Houston is not far behind with a nearly identical ERA, 409 RBI and the ability to increase that number in a hurry.

The Astros bats are impressive, but all eyes will be on the mound down the stretch. The key to this Houston team is health and pitching. If the roster can stay healthy, and the new and improved pitching staff continues to dominate, Astros fans could be in for an exciting month of October.

More From SI's Inside The Astros:

  1. Houston Astros Should Target Trey Mancini at Trade Deadline
  2. Overlooked Houston Astros' Signee VanWey Fueled For Major League Chance
  3. Astros Announce Signings of Eight Draft Picks
  4. Astros' McCullers Strikes Out Three in First Rehab Appearance
  5. José Urquidy Tosses Six for Astros as Mariners Threaten Late
  6. Astros' Sixth-Rounder Collin Price Idolizes Leadership of Brian McCann
  7. Álvarez, Bregman Lift Houston Astros Over Yankees for Doubleheader Sweep
  8. Report: Astros Pursuing Nationals' First Baseman Josh Bell
  9. Astros' Matijevic Walks Off Yankees to Open Second Half
  10. Report: Astros Activate Parker Mushinski

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