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Old 10-15-2015, 03:30 PM   #1
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Astros season ends but building blocks in place for 2016

Eventually this playoff ride would come to an end and that time came around 9:45p Wednesday night for the Astros.

There would not be another "Club Astros" celebration but instead a quiet reflecting Clubhouse when I entered 30 minutes following the final out.

The postseason road is over but what a journey it has been all season and in the past two weeks on their road to a World Series.

Winning the wildcard at a Yankee Stadium and taking the Royals thr distance is something to be proud of.

That World Series dream will have to wait until 2016 but these young Astros have sent a message that they are a team to be reckoned with and the rest of Major League baseball was put on notice. They brought playoff baseball back to Houston after a 10 year break and that is something to be proud of.

Game 5 went to the Royals 7-2 Wednesday night sending the Astros packing for the offseason. This series should have been closed out with a celebration on the field at Minute Maid Park after Game 4 but a late meltdown forced the extra trip back to Kauffman Stadium. The odds were stacked against them but the Astros gave it their best shot on a night Royals ace Johnny Cueto dominated.

Luis Valbuena provided the big pop with his early homer that put the Astros up 2-0. By the 5th Starter Collin McHugh was out and from there on Manager A.J. Hinch went through Mike Fiers, Tony Sipp and eventually Dallas Keuchel who came in on 2 days rest and gave up the Morales three run homer in the 8th to blow it open.

Now comes rest for these guys and for management the focus shifts to the offseason and crafting of the 2016 roster.

This group has a core in place with a strong starting pitching rotation along with the likes of Jose Altuve, George Springer and 21 year old superstar Carlos Correa who produced massive numbers since his call-up June 8.

"I will begin the offseason and then it is back to work for me in November," Correa told me in the clubhouse after the loss.

" Once I start working again I need to work on things in my game and get faster and stronger then it will be time for Spring Training," Correa added before heading to the team bus.

Credit goes out to General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for the successes the organization enjoyed throughout 2015.

Luhnow hit on moves he made that brought in producers like Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis among with summer moves that landed Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez. Each had their moments of highs and lows but without contributions from these guys the Astros may have never been a playoff team. Dallas Keuchel turned in a Cy Young worthy season and Collin McHugh followed up his 12 wins In 2014 with 19 regular season wins in 2015. McHugh has found a home after beginning his Major League career with the Mets and Rockies 0-8.

Hinch was masterful the way he managed this club. They respected him from day 1 of Spring Training and his confidence in them never wavered.

"We aren't here by mistake," Hinch said often in recent weeks and during their playoff run.

Hinch wasn't without mistakes during the 162 game grind but overall he did a tremendous job that should earn him plenty of votes for Manager of the Year consideration.

Now the Astros and the fans can enjoy the offseason and expect a few changes that every team goes through each winter. Their 89 wins left them one victory shy of the ALCS so Owner Jim Crane should be prepared to spend when Luhnow works his magic in the coming months.

What needs are the priorities? From my seat covering this team they need to make decisions on the Bullpen, 3rd base and 1st base. Also, is Jason Castro the answer at catcher?  Finally, sizing up the starting pitching staff Luhnow and Hinch will need to decide after Keuchel, McHugh and McCullers how the back end shakes out with Fiers, Kazmir and Feldman.

So let's enjoy this ride and countdown to 2016. Now it's back to the 1-4 Texans , an unbeaten and exciting UH Cougars football team and soon a new Rockets season will tip off .   So Houston get for a run ride ahead!

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