Astros players confident that team won't suffer post-World Series hangover

Now that the Houston Astros are starting the defense of their first World Series title, the question will be whether the team suffers a hangover from its remarkable run.

But staff ace Dallas Keuchel said he does not expect a dip in the Astros' form in a declaration that might ruffle a few feathers at Wrigley Field.

"We're not the Cubs," Keuchel told The Washington Post when asked about the Chicago Cubs' returning almost the same team from their 2016 championship and winning 11 fewer games. "I firmly believe we have better players."

The Cubs repeated as NL Central champions but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. The Astros then beat the Dodgers in the World Series.

Only one franchise has repeated as World Series champions in the past four decades: the New York Yankees, who pulled off a three-peat from 1998 to 2000.

Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who started the decisive Game 7 in L.A., offered his take on why teams have a disappointing encore performance.

"I think that demand on your time is more of the quote-unquote hangover than anything else. It's just the time you didn't get to devote to preparing for the season," McCullers said. "I did all the media stuff, all the requests -- sometimes two, three times a day -- which plays into it as well. That's not an offseason. That's a media tour."

Astros second baseman and defending AL MVP Jose Altuve said he wasn't worried about his team suffering any hangover.

"The guys here are smart enough to know what they have to do in spring training," Altuve said. "If you need to take it easy, you can take it easy. I think we're going to be totally fine. I tell you what -- I like what I see."