Houston Astros: Shoot for the division, settle for the Wild-Card

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The Houston Astros had a chance to maintain a respectable lead in the A.L. West, but road woes and a sudden lack of confidence have brought the Astros back to the pack. The Astros won 2-3 games this weekend versus a Rangers team that has dominated them recently, which could give the team the confidence to win on the road. By winning the two games, the Astros have gotten themselves within 2.5 games of the AL West-leading Rangers with six games left on the road. Can they catch the Rangers? Maybe they can, but we need to focus on retaining the second wild card slot over the Twins and Angels.

Dallas Keuchel‘s effort on Sunday afternoon could have set the tone for Astros play for the rest of the season. They appear to be focused again on bringing the playoffs back to Houston. The good news is that the Astros play the next six games against sub .500 teams in the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The bad news is that they play on the road, where they have a 29-46 record.

The Mariners

First up is the underperforming Seattle, who the Astros have won 10 of 16 games versus this season. The Astros have scored 91 games versus the Mariners while allowing 65 runs. The Astros started off 8-3 versus the Mariners on June 14th but have gone 2-3 since then. The Astros do have luck on their side as they don’t have to face Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma in this series. Instead, they will face Roenis Elias, Vidal Nuno, and another carbon based pitcher, but not the Mariners’ aces. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Mark Trumbo give Astros’ pitchers fits, so if the Astros can contain them, they should win at least two games.

Astros starters: Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, and Scott Kazmir.

My Prediction: Astros win the first two games and then drop the third game. This results would give the Astros an 84-75 record on the season. Highlighted by a McCullers eight innings of shutout baseball Monday night.

The Diamondbacks

The Astros have won two of three games this season, scoring 17 runs and allowing only nine runs. This trip will be a homecoming for Oliver Perez while Astros’ pitchers will be having nightmares about having to face Paul Goldschmidt for three games. I will have mixed emotions as I try to win the championship series in a Fantasy Baseball League with him as my number two guy behind Mike Trout and in front of Josh Donaldson. The Diamondbacks are five games below .500 at home, but that will be cancelled out by the Astros road woes.

Astros starters: Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, McCullers.

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My Prediction: I think the motivation to be spoilers for the Astros will waiver for the Diamondbacks after McHugh dominates them on Friday night. I predict a sweep by the Astros, but they still fall short of the Rangers by one game. The Astros final record will be 87-75. The Rangers will finish with an 88-74 record with them facing the Tigers and Angels, so I can see them going 4-3 or worse.

The Astros could pitch Keuchel on Friday on regular rest, then bring him back to pitch a potential Wild-Card game on short rest if the game is on Tuesday. The Astros need to put this playing bad on the road stuff to bed and shoot to overtake the Rangers. If not, I feel really confident that the Astros can go into Yankees stadium in a one game elimination game and win. This next week will be interesting, we will have Doodles the rally monkey on-hand at all times when the Astros are on the road.

Next: The Greatest Houston Astros Pitching Trio of All Time

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