3 reasons the Astros can actually hang on to win the AL West, 2 why they can't

The Houston Astros have a tough road ahead of them to win another division title.

Sep 5, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) is congratulated
Sep 5, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) is congratulated / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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The Rangers' collapse has made them all but a non-factor

It is borderline impressive to see this Texas Rangers team go from having arguably the best offense in the league and trading for Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery to struggling to beat anybody and crashing and burning the way they have. Texas has gone from leading the division to not even being in the playoffs if the season ended today.

This drastically reduces the opportunities for things to go sideways for Houston the rest of the way. If Texas was playing well, Houston would have to worry about Texas going on a run and complicating the playoff picture with no further ways for the Astros to stop them. However, the Rangers' bullpen is a mess and their offense has turned into a pumpkin in recent weeks. That likely means one less team that Houston needs to worry about down the stretch.

The Astros' pitching staff has struggled for the last month

One of the reasons that Houston has been so feast or famine recently is that the pitching staff has had a tough time of late. Over the last 30 days, they have put up a 4.75 ERA and have been even worse if you narrow things down to just the month of September. Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown have looked particularly vulnerable of late.

The last thing the Astros need is for their pitching staff to fail them down the stretch. There is enough talent there that one would think they could get back on track and finish this thing out. However, if recent trends hold and Houston can't get things done on the mound, the Astros could find themselves fighting for their playoff lives the last week of the season.

Houston has a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way

Fortunately for the Astros, there aren't too many landmines left on their remaining schedule. After they finish up with the Padres, Houston has series against Oakland and Kansas City twice where they should bee overwhelming favored to be able to pad their lead. Having nine games left against two of the worst teams in baseball is definitely a plus.

There are some potential pitfalls, though. A home series against the AL-best Baltimore Orioles could be a playoff preview and the Astros also have a road series against the Mariners late in September that could easily decide the division if there is a sweep either way. All in all, the schedule is a favorable one for Houston, but they have to take advantage of those games against the dregs of the league.