Arguably the toughest stretch of the Houston Astros season begins tonight.
On the heels of an impressive 5-1 homestand, the Astros now find themselves heading into enemy territory. Arlington, I mean.
The series against the Texas Rangers is only the beginning of a brutal 13-game stretch. Oh, did I mention that all 13 games are against first-place clubs? Yeah, the Astros have their work cut out for them.
Believe it or not, the next two weeks will have a major ramifications on the Astros playoff chances not only in the Wild Card but also the division.
Sure, they are eight-and-a-half games behind the Rangers. The Wild Card is much more realistic. Don’t forget though that there have been epic collapses in baseball before, and there will be more to follow. That’s not saying though that the Astros will catch the Rangers in 2016. You just never know at the end of the day so why not give it a shot?
Baseball is baseball after all, the sometimes unpredictable sport.
Of the upcoming 13 games, six are against the Rangers. The remaining seven is between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. That is just a tough schedule, no way around it. At least it’s not one long road trip.
For the Astros to be successful, the team will need to break their season-long trend of struggle against winning clubs.
A large chunk of that misfortune is by the hands of the Rangers, who are 11-2 against the Astros this season. And unlike Texas’ 30-8 record in one-run games, the Astros are only 22-21 in such games. It is possible that the Astros will have to beat the Rangers at their own game in September which means depending on a sometimes shaky bullpen in an one-run lead in the eight or ninth inning.
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Forgetting about the division race for the time being, if Houston can go at least 7-6 over the next two weeks the team may still be within striking distance of the second Wild Card. Of course, that is depending on the AL East losing some games. The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox are still playing competitive baseball and both are talented enough to wrap up the Wild Card if other teams stumble. The Astros just won’t luck themselves into the Wild Card game.
The Astros season more than likely rides on the results of the first two weeks in September.
But we should not overlook the final two weeks of the season. Even though their records may not indicate much, the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels are playing the role of spoiler. And like how Houston fans like not to take much stock in a single-season record with the Rangers, the same can be said from the Angels point of view. An 11-1 record against the Angels doesn’t mean much in September. Then there also lies the improved Seattle Mariners, who are battling the Astros for a Wild Card spot. There are still six games left on the Astros schedule involving Seattle so it would be wise not to overlook them as well.
The talk has been all season long how the Astros have the talent to compete with the upper echelon in baseball. Well, if that is truly the case then it is time to prove that now. The chance to shock the baseball world by snatching the division from the Rangers is there. So is the opportunity to claim one of the Wild Card spots.
The question is now whether the Astros will take advantage of this situation. To be honest, it is time for this team to put up or shut up.
**Record statistics provided by Baseball Reference**