The Astros find themselves in a bit of a pickle in early August.
Following Sunday’s disappointing series finale against the Mariners, the Astros now find themselves with some competition for control of the AL West. Well, one could argue that has been the case all season, but a four-game series sweep AT HOME to the Mariners has to be the low point of the season. Here is how the AL West currently stands.
Team (Record) Games Back
- Astros (73-46) –
- Athletics (70-48) 2.5
- Mariners (69-50) 4.0
- Angels (59-60) 14.0
- Rangers (52-68) 21.5
Give credit to the Athletics and Mariners, though. Both teams have played quite well this season, and have earned any positive results. That said, the Astros cannot afford another embarrassing performance at home. If it weren’t for the team’s 41-18 record on the road, the 32-28 home record would look even worse. To experience back-to-back home sweeps to the Rangers and Mariners is inexcusable for a postseason hopeful.
While it would be easy to pick on the Astros’ bullpen for Sunday’s defeat, it isn’t that simple. The team as a whole hasn’t been right since the injuries have taken place, especially the lineup. Since the team’s 14 run explosion against the Dodgers on August 4th, Houston has scored more than three runs only once. For the sake of reference, the Astros’ offense only has a 75 wRC+ since August 5th. Do I dare say that Jose Altuve is the offense’s key cog? Well, yes.
The Astros still have a 99.2% chance of qualifying for the postseason at FanGraphs. However, the team has seen its probability to win the division drop to 93.2%, which is still quite high. But the Astros recent woes have allowed the Athletics and Mariners a chance to usurp first-place in the division.
Going forward, Houston first needs to regain their star players, namely Altuve and George Springer. Carlos Correa is still shaking off the rust from his time on the DL, but a healthy Altuve and Springer would help alleviate the pressure on the lineup. It also doesn’t help that multiple Houston hitters have entered slumps. Of course, we’ve found out that Tyler White likes to hit in the major leagues, so that’s a positive. Incidentally, the pitching staff has held up relatively well, minus Justin Verlander‘s latest start and the bullpen’s let down on Sunday.
Following the conclusion of the current homestand, the Astros head back to the West Coast for their most crucial stretch of games since last year’s postseason. This trip includes three-games in Oakland and Seattle, so it is easy to see the importance of these games.