In late June/early July, the Astros faced what looked like a daunting 15-game stretch. It included 9 games against the best teams in the AL and NL (Yankees and Mets), three against the above .500 White Sox, and three against the Angels, who were lurking behind the Astros but always dangerous with Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and company. Well, the Astros roared to a 12-3 record during that stretch ending it with a season-high 13.5 game lead in their division.
Flash forward to today and coming out of the All Star break, and the next 15 games may have a lot to say about whether the Astros are going to coast to another AL West title or be in hand-to-hand combat down the stretch.
Their 13.5-game lead was shrunk to a still robust nine-game lead heading into the All Star break primarily due to a Mariners team with an active 14-game winning streak.
What the schedule looks like starting Thursday:
- A doubleheader at Minute Maid against the Yankees. This is part of the “makeup” schedule caused by the extended lockout that canceled some early-season games. The Yanks have the best record in baseball at 64-28.
- The Astros then have to fly out after the doubleheader to Seattle to start a 3 game series over the weekend. The red-hot Mariners (51-42) don’t play Thursday and will be sitting in wait for the Astros.
- The three games at Oakland (32-61) might be expected to be a bit of a breather here, but the Astros just got done yakking up two out of three to the A’s at home.
- The Mariners then come to Houston for a four-game series. The M’s have an easier travel situation as they are playing the Rangers at Arlington on Wednesday afternoon, while the Astros are finishing up in Oakland simultaneously.
- The Red Sox (48-45) come to Houston next for three games and are a solid club in a tough division. They are in a bit of a tailspin in July, so maybe……
The worst-case scenario is that the Mariners use their seven games against the Astros to shrink that nine-game lead to a more manageable size. The best-case scenario is that the Astros use this opportunity to bury the M’s. And, of course, the most likely scenario is somewhere in between.
How are you feeling at this traditional slightly more than the halfway mark in the season?