This year, 2020 will be best seen in our rearview mirrors. It has been hurtful in so many significant ways between health issues, death rates, bankruptcies, job loss and loss of freedoms.
In a small way, 2020 has turned this baseball season into Bizarroville. Seven inning doubleheaders, guys put on second base to start extra innings, 30 man rosters, teams shut down for a week or two at a time by a vicious virus, 3 hitter minimums for relief pitchers and a 60 game season.
So, it has changed the timetable of the season in our minds. The Astros sit at 8-10. They are 4-1/2 games behind the A’s for the division. They are 1/2 game behind the Rangers (spit!) for the second playoff spot from the AL West and they are 1-1/2 games out of the second wild card spot for the AL. It’s only three weeks into the season, yet here we are playing the last place (2 games behind the Astros) Seattle Mariners and it feels like a must-win series.
Last season the Astros played their 19th game on April 19. Any thought that a series at that point in the season was of much importance would have been laughable. But this season is of course different. The Astros have been a sinking ship lately, dropping from a tie for the division lead on August 2 to the present spot in a nine-game free fall. They need more than a leveling off at this point. They need to get the momentum going back the other way, which they did in a small way with their 2-1 series win against the Giants.
The Mariners come to town with a 7-13 record on the year. They have lost 9 of their last 12 games. They have been the Astros’ patsy winning only 1 of 9 games this season and having lost 3 of 4 to start the year against the Astros.
Frankly, losing this series to the M’s could be disastrous for the Astros overall chances, both psychologically and in real terms.
However, on the plus side…
- Wunderkind Yordan Alvarez returns to a lineup that has been scoring a decent amount of runs but has missed a spark at times especially late and close.
- George Springer returned from his injury on Wednesday and helped to jump-start the offense in a 5-1 win over SF.
- The Astros have three solid-looking pitchers going in this series. Framber Valdez has found the plate, still throws a ball with tremendous movement and has been one of their most effective pitchers this season. Lance McCullers Jr.pitched a great start last time out allowing one hit and no walks in seven innings against the Giants. Cristian Javier hit a bump in the road Sunday against the A’s but otherwise has been a good pitcher this season.
- Alex Bregman (a friend of the blog, Astro Nut pointed out) has been on a 10 game roll, which is a welcome turnaround after his usual turtle start to the season.
- Perhaps, Jose Altuve, after being forced to sit out Wednesday night’s game will come back with a vengeance from his Max Stassi-like start to 2020.
Is this a must-win series for the Astros? Well in mathematical terms, of course not. Even in this shortened season, there will be about 2/3 of the season to go. But losing this series could be very discouraging to them psychologically, and the last thing an 8-10 team needs at this point is doubt in themselves.