Houston may have a problem.
The first dent in the seemingly impenetrable armor of the Astros was on display during Monday's American League Division Series tilt between Houston and the Tampa Bay Rays. Houston starter Zack Greinke put an unfortunate spin on the city's beloved tradition of liftoff, allowing Tampa Bay to put runs on the board early via a pair of home runs. Greinke was removed after 3 2/3 frames, tagged for six runs, each of them earned. Tampa Bay has held steady with a 10-3 lead in the latter stages at Tropicana Field.
Houston has been renowned for its deadly one-two bunch at the top of their rotation (Gerrit Cole/Justin Verlander). That rotation seemed further bolstered by the arrival of Greinke, a transfer from Arizona in a late-summer deal. The right-hander certainly played his part in helping the Astros reach their regular season goals. He wound up going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in a Houston uniform.
The playoffs, true to form, however, have been another story.
Grrinke owned a pedestrian 4.03 postseason ERA entering today's action, a tally that seems only poised to rise after his outing. He has seemed to avoid the attention and consternation that other elite regular season arms like Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer seem to deal with in their own postseason mishaps, but, if this spirals out of control, it could deny the Astros their hopes of a modern baseball dynasty. Greinke already saw one such opportunity fall by the wayside in Los Angeles. His postseason numbers with the Dodgers are overall decent, but he's perhaps best known for giving up a sixth inning solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the Dodgers' NLDS loss to the Mets in 2015.
In short, maybe it's a good idea Houston earned homefield advantage.
With the Astros edging out the New York Yankees for potential ALCS proceedings to begin in the Lone Star State, a certain amount of pressure falls off his shoulders. The Yankees likewise enter Monday action with a chance to sweep, up 2-0 on Minnesota entering tonight's Game 3. The longer Greinke can rest to prepare for the Yankees, the better. Should the Yankees win on Monday, they would then wait five nights to partake in Game 1 of the ALCS. Greinke is 4-4 against the Yankees in his career with a 5.05 ERA.
It's possible we could see Grienke come out of the bullpen if and when the Astros end up clinching. For now, he's a rare question mark for a team that seemingly has it all together.