So if the playoffs began today, the Astros would indeed back in. But those playoffs are still a couple of weeks away and those 15 games will determine what type of team Jeff Luhnow has assembled and just how much magic that A.J. Hinch really has in that thar brain.
In reality, the first 147 games didn’t matter a bit, other than to position the organization for this time. These are the games (plus the last four) that fans will remember come October and spring training.
Houston has an eight-game home stand that begins tonight and the team will probably need a 6-2 run in that stretch to get back in the fight for the division title. That would include a sweep of the Rangers next week.
For a team than has spent 139 days in first place and now trails by its largest margin of the season, morale is likely at a low point as well. Hinch’s job to prepare the team for this weekend is perhaps his most important job since spring training. Does he alter his lineup? Does he call a pre-game meeting to drill home the importance? Does he pull aside younger players and encourage them?
Probably not. At this point, it is what it is. At this level, players should be able to motivate and prepare themselves for the most part.
But let’s make no bones about it. If the Astros don’t make the playoffs, the season is a success. Huge success. Tremendous strides forward.
Yes, there are questions, head scratchers and bumbles along the way, but a success nonetheless. Here are a few.
- Houston now has a shortstop, perhaps Rookie of the Year.
- The rotation is one of the best in baseball and Luhnow could lock up a couple of those guys this winter.
- The bullpen has been steady…all season.
- Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh are no one-season flukes.
- Will Harris is the real deal. Add Tony Sipp to that list.
- Correa. Vincent Velasquez. Lance McCullers Jr. Preston Tucker.
- Marwin Gonzalez. Again.
- The farm system. Again.
Can you add to the list? And since it’s Free Blog Weekend, let the festivities begin!