On June 5, after losing to James Paxton and the Mariners were 37-25, the Astros were two games back in the division behind Seattle, and 5 1/2 games back of the Red Sox for the best record in the majors. For perspective, 37-25 is on pace for a 97 win season, which would tie for the Astros’ 3rd best ever record. But still, it felt a little disappointing. At the time, it was noted that the M’s had played one of the easiest schedules in the majors and the Astros one of the hardest, but this was about to reverse.
The Astros took advantage of a softer schedule and through Sunday’s win over the Royals, they had gone 15-2 in their last 17 games and were sporting a 52-27 record (106 win pace). They had made up 6 1/2 games on the M’s and were leading the division by four games. On top of this, they were in a virtual tie with the Yankees for the best record in the majors. A very nice 2-1/2 weeks by the Astros to flip things around. But it is not enough.
The Astros are staring at another set of soft series between now and the All Star Break, starting July 16. They play in order:
- Three at home against Toronto (36-41)
- Four at Tampa Bay (37-40)
- Two at Texas (34-45)
- Four at home against Chisox (26-51)
- Three at home against Oakland (40-38)
- Three at home against Detroit (36-42)
Only the A’s are presently above .500 from that grouping and possibly the biggest barrier to a great run is the crazy fact that 13 of the 19 games are at home, where the Astros have a winning record, but are 5 1/2 games worse than on the road.
This is the time to bury the other teams in the division. This is the time to grab the home field advantage. The Astros need to continue to get very good starting pitching, the improved hitting they’ve seen lately (Friday night being an exception) and solid relief pitching.
Currently, the Astros have two pitchers in the top five in innings pitched; Justin Verlander (third, but likely first after Monday’s start) and Gerrit Cole (fifth). They also have two more in the top 20 in Dallas Keuchel (13th) and Lance McCullers (17th). The best way to get these guys some rest down the stretch is to build up a big lead and this is a prime chance to do just that.
The offense has gotten a lot steadier in this recent streak – scoring four or more runs in 15 of the 17 games, those two exceptions (1 run and 0 runs scored) came in the only two losses. If they can keep that going and have Carlos Correa or George Springer go on one of their tears where they carry the team, this could be a real special streak heading into an All Star game that should have a real Astros flavor to it.
- How many of the next 19 games should the Astros win?
- How many will they win?
- What will be their lead in the division, if any, after 19 games?
- Will they have the best record in baseball headed into the All Star Break?