Astros: The race for the AL West is entering the stretch run
Unlike last year, the AL West will be decided in the season’s final weeks.
The Astros leave the Labor Day weekend with a two-and-a-half game lead over the Athletics for the AL West lead. In contrast to one calendar year ago when Houston ran away with it, the division is still up for grabs. At this point though, both teams will qualify for the postseason based on the current Wild Card standings. The critical difference is the one-game playoff that is known as the Wild Card. Both Houston and Oakland would obviously prefer to advance to the ALDS outright rather than play a one-game playoff.
To finish out the season, the Astros strength of remaining schedule is tied for the fourth-lowest in baseball by opponent winning percentage of .465. However, Oakland is only spot below Houston with an opponent strength of remaining schedule of .479. If you were banking on the Athletics experiencing a far tougher schedule than the Astros, well, you may be disappointed.
With a 85-53 record, the Astros only have 24 regular season games left. Out of those 24 games, only nine are against opponents that currently have a .500 record or better. Also, the 24 games are comprised of 11 at Minute Maid Park and 13 on the road. For a team that has relatively struggled at home all season long, road games are strangely desired for the time being. By the way, there are no more regular season games between the Astros and Athletics this year.
The AL West has been an interesting division to watch this season. While we’ve seen the Astros match their 2017 pace through 138 games, the rest of the division has put pressure on Houston. The Angels, for example, jumped off to a great start before injuries and ineffectiveness derailed their season. Seattle was the king at winning one-run games before their latest swoon. The Rangers are starting a rebuild, but they can still surprise you. Just ask the Astros following Texas’ sweep of them from earlier this summer at Minute Maid Park. And Oakland has been one of the best teams in baseball since June. The division went from one of the worst in 2017 to one of the toughest in 2018.
Table 1. Final 2017 AL West standings
Team Wins Loss
Astros 101 61
Angels 80 82
Rangers 78 84
Mariners 78 84
Athletics 75 87
Table 2. Current 2018 AL West standings
Team Wins Loss
Astros 85 53
Athletics 83 56
Mariners 77 61
Angels 67 71
Rangers 60 78
The race for the AL West crown is entering its final weeks. If the Astros pull it off, this season will be the first time since the late 1990’s that the franchise has won consecutive division titles. If Oakland wrestles away control from Houston, the Athletics would prove how a defending champion is susceptible to an upset. Whoever doesn’t win the division title will likely face the Yankees in a one-game playoff. Sounds like fun, right?