This week could be an important one for the Astros. Wait, it already is an important one.
Oh, look, the Astros are now 1.5 games behind the Indians for the best record in the AL.
Sound the alarms!
That was not an expected development a few short weeks ago.
Thanks to the Indians incredible 19-game winning streak, they have overtaken a position the Astros have held since May. You can’t help but tip your cap to that ball club. Cleveland is honestly the best team in the AL right now.
At the same time, the Astros should not fret quite yet.
For one, the season is still ongoing. While the Indians look unbeatable now, they will surely lose again this season. Maybe only a handful of times, mind you, but Houston is only 1.5 games behind. Still plenty of time to close the gap.
Secondly, the postseason is another beast entirely. The Indians could very well play their best ball the rest of the way. Or they may not. The postseason is such a crapshoot that any team could go all the way. If I were the Astros, I would still feel confident about my chances once the time comes. There is a reason why they actually play the games.
Keep in mind though, the Astros lone World Series appearance back in 2005 was possible due to a Wild Card entry. The 1998 Astros, the best NL team that year, was ousted in the first round by Kevin Brown. Oh, the Padres were also involved.
There are a few reasons to be optimistic about Houston going forward.
One example is the return of Carlos Correa. While his performance since his return from the DL – 19 wRC+ in 35 plate appearances – has been lackluster, the fact that he is back in the lineup is a positive. Correa should turn it around as he continues to get his timing back at the plate.
Another reason lies in the Astros’ latest acquisition, Justin Verlander.
The Astros’ starter (still weird!) had a solid debut last week in Seattle. He will start again Tuesday in Anaheim against the Angels. And Houston will likely need a strong start to snap a four-game losing streak that follows them from Oakland.
This team’s depth should also continue to serve them well. Between the lineup and the pitching staff, there are definitely quality options. But this past weekend in Oakland proved that even the best have their forgettable moments.
As their 86-and-57 record indicates, the Astros are a good baseball. Sure, the second half has not been a smashing success like the first half, but the time is still on their side. Little time, mind you, but time nonetheless.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and ESPN**