If the Astros don't play in October for the first time since 2016, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves. With a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL West, the Astros were staring 9 of 12 games against the A's and Royals in the face while Seattle and Texas had much tougher schedules to navigate.
Houston unfathomably lost nine of those 12, and now find themselves with a 0.5 game lead over the Mariners for the final AL Wild Card spot before tonight's game. The Astros will finish with six games on the road. They'll play three against Seattle, who already holds the season tiebreaker, before traveling to Arizona for three against the Diamondbacks. Both opponents are also fighting for their playoff lives.
Even if Houston gets in, they won't have home field advantage, a first round bye, or an advantageous pitching matchup. And if they do miss out, they'll have nowhere to look but the mirror.
Let's look at who or what is to blame for what has gone wrong with the Astros.
Let’s be clear; injuries played a role in the Astros struggles this season, but they are not the primary culprit. Compared to much of the MLB, they’ve actually been relatively healthy.
It’s not the amount of games that have hurt Houston, but rather, who has missed them. Jose Altuve missed the first two months of the season. Yordan Alvarez missed multiple stints. Lance McCullers Jr. hasn’t thrown a pitch. Luis Garcia started only six games. And José Urquidy missed three full months.
If the Astros hadn’t missed Altuve for two whole months, and if he and Alvarez had been in the lineup together more, Houston likely squeezes out a couple more wins.
And if McCullers, Garcia and Urquidy were available for more innings, we likely don’t see Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown and J.P. France blow past their career high workloads. Maybe their second half struggles are alleviated.
So yes, injuries played a role in the struggles, but they and the WBC are not solely to blame.