The Houston Astros currently hold the second Wild Card spot with an 84-75 record. The Los Angeles Angels (83-75) and Minnesota Twins (82-76) respectively trail the Astros by 0.5 and 1.5 games entering Thursday.
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The Astros have Thursday off before finishing the regular season in Arizona with a three-game series against the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers will host the Angels for a four-game set in Arlington. The Rangers hold a 2.5 game lead on the Astros for the AL West, so a division title is still in reach for Houston, albeit unlikely.
According to Fangraphs, the Astros have a 68.9% chance to make the playoffs, but only a 3.4% chance of winning the AL West at this point. Here are a few different scenarios in which the Astros make or miss the playoffs. Note: There is no possible scenario in which the Astros reach the ALDS without playing at least one additional game prior to that series.
The flat-out best (and again, most unlikely) scenario involves the Astros and Angels both sweeping their final series and finishing with an identical 87-75 record. The Astros hold the head-to-head advantage against the Angels 10-9 so they would host a “Game 163” to decide the division winner. With a win, they would then head to either Toronto or Kansas City to begin the ALDS.
The Astros control their destiny at this point – if they win out, they’re in, but there are a handful of ways in which the Astros can miss the playoffs if they don’t sweep. If the Astros win the series 2-1, there are still two ways they don’t clinch the Wild Card spot and have to play a Game 163:
Things get much worse (and unpredictable) if the Astros lose the series or get swept because the Twins would then have a chance to sneak in and shake things up.
It’s obvious at this point, but the Astros have to win. The Astros will be sending out Dallas Keuchel to set the tone on Friday, followed by Collin McHugh and a TBA starter for Sunday’s season finale. I’m predicting that the Angels and Rangers split their series while the Astros sweep the Diamondbacks (because why not?) on the arms of the Astros’ starters and the bat of Chris Carter. That scenario would send the Astros to New York for the Wild Card game; plus, an 87-75 record is only a game off from my second-half prediction of 88-74.
Again, a sweep puts the Astros in the playoffs as the second Wild Card team in every scenario except for the one mentioned above where the Angels sweep as well. The Astros are new to this territory under this regime, so we’re about to find out what this team is made of when the chips are down. Hey, it’s a lot more fun (and stressful) than a 100+ loss season.
Next: Houston Astros: What if there is a tie with the Anaheim Angels for Wild-Card?