The Astros entered this weekend's series against Oakland just two games up in the division. They leave lucky to still have a lead, even if it is only by one game. On Sunday, they racked up five home runs to help Justin Verlander, who wasn't exactly his sharpest, finally get his 200th career win.
In truth, the Astros should have taken this series if not for a very controversial call on Friday night. Up one in the bottom of the ninth, the Astros appeared to have gunned out an A's runner at the plate. In fact, he was called out. But, the replay officials overruled the call. The A's walked off in the 10th with a home run. The overruled call, by all appearances, looked to have been correct on the field.
Then, on Saturday, the A's smacked around Dallas Keuchel for five runs and ultimately won 7-1.
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Fortunately, the Astros bounced back on Sunday. Had they not, they would have found themselves looking up at a new division leader for the first time since the first month of the season.
The remainder of this month continues to be critical for the Astros as they head to Seattle for three games followed by three in Los Angeles against the Angels before coming home to face the A's and Angels again. Fortunately, Seattle had a rough weekend and they are now four-and-a-half games back of the Astros in the division.
The Astros did get a little more good news on the injury front as Jose Altuve had his first rehab start at Triple A Fresno. He went 1-3 and was hit by a pitch. It seems more clear that the MVP will return sooner rather than later and the Astros could use his bat in the lineup.
It appears it will be a dogfight going forward without the big cushion they held in the division last year at this time. Right now, they don't need health to help them in the playoffs, they need it to get to the playoffs.