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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. New York Mets

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Closing time.

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Bob Levey

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the Astros this year for a team that may just barely avoid last place in its division for the first time since 2010. Back in June, Sports Illustrated declared Houston the 2017 World Series champs, even putting top prospect George Springer on the cover of the weekly magazine.

Whether or not you believe in a certain jinx, things have not gone well for the Astros since that publication hit newsstands. Springer, although he has shown serious potential as a five-tool player this season, has been out since late July with a quad strain.

The major league team was always going to struggle, though. What could be troubling to Houston's 2017 prospects is the team's issues at other parts of the organization.

2013 top overall draft pick Mark Appel suffered through a nightmarish season at Class-A Lancaster, and several of his big league teammates were not pleased to see him "rewarded" with a special bullpen session at Minute Maid Park. Although Appel has begun to right himself at Double-A, the Astros shot themselves in the foot by failing to sign this year's top pick Brady Aiken.

Houston gets the second overall pick in the 2015 draft to make up for losing Aiken, but the way the front office low-balled the prospect when an MRI showed that he has a very small UCL is going to do some damage to the Astros' reputation. It also doesn't help that the club fired manager Bo Porter despite Houston's surprising competitiveness this year.

Only the future will tell if the Astros are a budding powerhouse or if they will continue to be a laughingstock well into the next decade. The farm system is still loaded with talent, but many fans have grown weary of a slow rebuilding process that is the result of a complete tear-down by general manager Jeff Luhnow.

Who's on the mound?

What's the pitching version of a murderer's row? Whatever it is, the Astros are sending the opposite to face the Mets on the final weekend of the regular season. Brad Peacock is up first on Friday night against Jon Niese. While Niese has pitched pretty darn well lately, Peacock just got shelled by the Mariners and has a 4.82 ERA for the season. With 68 walks in just 127 innings this year, he's a guy whose command is not as good as his last name yet.

On Saturday night, Samuel Deduno, who I just learned a moment ago was a member of the Astros, will pitch against Rafael Montero. Deduno was a mediocre swingman for the Twins this season. During his final month with the club, he allowed 10 runs in 14 relief innings before being claimed on waivers by Houston. Saturday will be Deduno's first ever start with his new team and his first start overall since mid-June.

Montero is taking deGrom's spot in the rotation for its final turn. Although his major league starts have been spread out this season, Montero has allowed just one total run in his last two. Hopefully he'll twirl another gem against the Astros tomorrow night.

A 24-year-old from West Islip, New York, Nick Tropeano will get the ball for the Astros in their final game of 2014. In his three prior major league outings (all this month), Tropeano has a 3.78 ERA with 12 strikeouts and six walks. That makes him the best pitcher the Mets will face this weekend, so hopefully there are wins on the horizon. Bartolo Colon will be on the mound for New York.

Prediction: Mets sweep, Colon flirts with perfection again in what could be his final start at Citi Field!

More Springer highlights

Oh my goodness...

Pretty sure baseballs are not supposed to be hit this far. Who said offense is dead?

This is the last Series Preview of the year! Feel free to leave constructive criticism in the comments. Were these articles too long? Not long enough? What would you like to see more/less of next season? Let us know! And as usual...

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