The Houston Astros have returned to the World Series for the third time in the past five seasons.
Houston survived the gauntlet of the American League by knocking off the Chicago White Sox in four games, and the Boston Red Sox in six utilizing the strength of its offense.
No team in the postseason has scored more runs than the Astros’ 67 in their 10 playoff games. Their average of 6.7 runs per game dwarfs those of the Boston Red Sox (5.5), Los Angeles Dodgers (4.0), and their opponent in the Fall Classic, the Atlanta Braves (4.0).
Michael Brantley asked about the abuse the #Astros take from fans on the road and does that just go with the territory: “Sure does. We get it everywhere we go…There’s nothing that a crowd’s gonna do that’s gonna get us off our game.” pic.twitter.com/RnJQyywA1b
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) October 25, 2021
A big part of Houston’s offensive success has been the consistent hitting of outfielder Michael Brantley.
The five-time All-Star has at least one base hit in nine of 10 games this year, and ranks fifth in all of MLB with 14 hits in the playoffs.
He’s also in the top ten in doubles (2), RBI (8), steals, and ranks eighth in batting average among those who played 10 or more games (.311).
But playoff production is nothing out of the ordinary for Brantley.
Playing in his sixth postseason, Michael Brantley has proven to be at his best when the stakes are highest.
Over 48 games and 192 playoff at-bats, “Dr. Smooth” has racked up 56 hits, 24 RBI, and has scored 20 runs, while sporting a .292 batting average.
Brantley is also tied with Pat Borders of the Toronto Blue Jays for the second-longest postseason hitting streak in baseball history at 16 games, trailing only Manny Ramirez, Hank Bauer, and Derek Jeter.
The streak that began in Game 1 of the 2020 America League Divisional Series didn’t end until Houston’s loss in Game 2 of this season’s ALCS.
While the Astros’ power bats like ALCS MVP Yordan Alverez, Yuli Guriel, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker, and Jose Altuve, get most of the ink, Brantley continues to fly under the radar of most fans.
Brantley isn’t flashy, and his four career postseason home runs are as many as Tucker has this season alone. However, the Houston offense doesn’t work without his steady bat near the top of the order.
In the 10-1 win to close out the ALDS, Brantley had three hits and drove in a pair of runs. Then, as Houston was climbing out of a 2-1 deficit to Boston in the ALCS, he came through with four hits, four RBI while scoring a pair of runs to send the series back to H-Town for the clincher.
If the Astros want to claim their second world championship, they’ll have to do what the Dodgers were unable to do…score. The Dodgers averaged 2.5 runs per game in their four losses to Atlanta.
The series begins within the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park, but games 3-5 will be played by National League rules, meaning one of Houston’s hitters will have to take a seat.
It’s doubtful it will be Brantley.
Dusty Baker will likely rely on the man who hit .378 in interleague play, compiling 17 hits in 12 games.
Baker understands NL strategy and the importance of getting into a team’s bullpen early. Brantley will have to set the table for the rest of the lineup, just as he has all season long.
It’s a role that Brantley has excelled at, and earned him respect as a “professional hitter.”
So, when the battle for the Commissioner’s Trophy commences on Tuesday night, be sure to keep an eye on the man who speaks softly, but comes up with big hits.