The week of 9-10 through 9-16 in review
The Astros lead was a tenuous 2.5 games over the A’s heading into this big week. The Astros swept the Detroit Tigers on the road and came back from a first game loss to win a three-game series with the Arizona D’Backs. The Astros in reversing a season-long trend took four of their five wins on the week by one-run margins. The A’s split the week 3-3 and the Astros finished Sunday with a 4.5 game lead over Oakland and now face the next week with a magic number to clinch the division of 9.
The week of 9-17 through 9-23 in a preview
The Astros finish their home schedule with six games against division rivals, three against the Mariners and three against the Angels at Minute Maid Park.
The M’s had their first winning week in a month. After a four-game sweep of the Astros (at Minute Maid) the second week of August they were 4 games back of the Astros and only 1.5 games back of the A’s for a playoff spot. They have steadily sunk out of the pennant race since then, coming to town 12 games back in the AL West and 7.5 games back in the Wild Card race.
The Angels beat the Rangers 2 out of 3 to begin last week and then lost 3 of 4 to the Mariners through the weekend. It is hard to remember that the Angels were tied for the division lead in mid-May. They then fell behind by 10 games by late June and now start the new week 20.5 games back of the division-leading Astros.
Player of the Week: Justin Verlander
The Astros had a very hopeful week as both Jose Altuve and George Springer began hitting like the 2018 MVP and 2018 WS MVP that they are. But the player of the week was Justin Verlander. JV struggled in August while he was working on earning his 200th career win. In September he has won all three of his starts including two this last week. For the week, Verlander was 2-0 in 14 innings with 9 hits, 3 runs, 21 Ks and 3 walks and looking a lot like the pitcher, who came to town last September and carved his way through all the teams he faced.
Stat focus: Home Sweet Home
After the Mariners completed their 4 game sweep of the Astros on August 12th, the Rockies followed that with a 5-1 beating of the good guys and Houston was an anemic 31-29 at home on the season. Since then the Astros with tremendous pressure on them to outrun the streaking A’s have put up a beyond solid 10-4 record in their last 14 home games. During those 14 games, the Astros have scored 79 runs (5.6 runs/game) which is much more in line with what has been expected from them this season. They will need to keep that home field play going as they race to and through the playoffs.
Pop Song That Should Have Been a Hit – “Three Roses” by America
Back in 1971, I was a freshman in high school and was just loving this new Neil Young song on the radio. However, that Neil Young song turned out to be “A Horse with No Name” from the debut album of the pop/rock group America. The group consisted of three US military brats who ironically formed their trio in the UK. The debut album also included the hit “I Need You.” One of the hidden gems on the album was the song “Three Roses”, on which the boys sounded a lot more like Crosby, Stills and Nash than Neil Young with lovely harmonies and even a Stephen Stills-ish guitar solo towards the end. The song never was released as a single, though at least one unpaid critic believes it should have been.
Anyways, back to baseball. By the end of this coming week, there is a chance the Astros will have wrapped up the division, a chance the A’s have closed the gap or a chance the Astros will have set the table to clinch in the last week of the season. What do you think the next week will bring?