The Astros Have Sights on the AL West Now That They Have Reached Second
The Houston Astros have mounted a 20-8 record since being 17-28, but they still sit ten games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The Astros have fought back to a 37-36 record, which is good enough for second place in the AL West. In fact, the Rangers are the only AL team above 41 wins (Orioles and Indians) with 47 wins so far.
The Rangers have a 9-1 record versus the Astros, which could account for how many games behind they currently sit at. If you take away Astros games from the picture, the Rangers would be 38-25. Unfortunately, we can not erase the memories of those games that the Astros have seemed overmatched versus the Rangers, only scoring 28 runs in the ten games while allowing 45 runs.
Someone asked me last night if I thought the Astros had a shot of catching the Rangers and winning the AL West. My response was the first thing I could think of, that we have to beat the Rangers first before we can think of catching them. We play the Rangers nine more times this season, twice at home and one at Globe Life Park.
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Assuming the Astros win six of those nine games, it would cut into the Rangers lead. The Astros bullpen and rotation is keeping the team in games long enough for the offense to mount their comeback. This has been the biggest difference recently as the bullpen is becoming one of the stingiest bullpens in baseball.
The Astros used to have one of the worst records in baseball when they score three runs or less, but recently, they have won those close games. According to ESPN, the Astros had averaged 4.6 runs over the past 28 games, when they averaged four runs per game in the first 45 games. That is not a big difference in runs per game, but the pitching staff has limited the scoring by the opposition.
This formula of lower scoring games could be beneficial in winning enough games to catch the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were also hit hard with the injury bug recently, mostly in the pitching rotation. They lost two starting pitchers yesterday with Derek Holland going down with left shoulder inflammation and Colby Lewis with a Grade two strain of his right lat muscle. These two join the oft-injured Yu Darvish on the DL.
The Rangers were leading the league in rotation ERA, will take a big hit losing their big three behind Hamels. A.J. Griffin is currently on the DL, but should be ready to return this weekend. Their projected five-man rotation should be.
or Kyle Loshe
Darvish doesn’t appear to be too far off from returning, but this could give the Astros a chance to knock the Ranger’s division lead down despite not facing them in July. Lewis will miss two months of what was becoming his best season with the Rangers, the rotation beyond Hamels is shaky at best. The Rangers have a ten-game lead on the Astros, so they have some room to handle these injuries for now, but the Astros had a comfortable lead on them last year.
With 89 games remaining for the Astros, they still have enough time to catch the Rangers. However, look for the Rangers to look for a starting pitcher on the trade market soon. That’s one advantage the Astros have on the Rangers. They have a deeper pitching staff with starters in the bullpen and a couple of arms ready at Triple-A. What the Rangers would do to get their hands on Scott Feldman, but that is not happening.
The Astros need to focus on the wild card and play the type of baseball that they have played recently. If they win, the pressure will be on the Rangers to win. The Astros have played winning baseball since April, and we can’t make it up in ten games, but gradually winning over time will cut into the lead. I know what we will talk about on this week’s Talking Stros.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***