Astros Barely Holding on to Division Lead After Walk Off Win Against Orioles

If they Astros want to recapture this, they need to make the postseason.
If they Astros want to recapture this, they need to make the postseason. Photo by Jack Gorman
It has been a wretched couple of weeks for the home town baseball team. After absolutely dismantling the Rangers in Arlington and taking two against the Padres at Minute Maid, something has gone monumentally wrong. In the nine games since, they are 3-6 and barely holding onto first place in the AL West.

The Astros capped off an absolutely miserable series against the very good Baltimore Orioles with an exciting walk off win in the bottom of the ninth on a Mauricio Dubón RBI single. Much like the last couple of series, the Astros got a single win in the final game of the series. They got no help from the Mariners and Rangers who both got wins on Wednesday as well keeping them a half game back of the Astros.

It's remarkable this deep into a season that three teams, separated by a half game, are fighting for not just a potential division win and a first round bye in the postseason, but their literal playoff lives at the same time.

The reality is the Astros have been completely miserable as of late, but they still have a solid chance to not just make the playoffs but win the AL West. They obviously need more wins like Wednesday, but when you compare schedules, they certainly are favored.

The last three series of the year for the Astros include the Royals at home (no gimme given what we saw over the weekend), the Mariners in Seattle and the Diamondbacks in Arizona. We know what is at stake for the M's and Arizona is in a battle for the Wild Card with three other teams, only two of which will make it.

The Mariners and Rangers will be faced with the toughest roads mainly because seven of their final 10 games are against one another. The Rangers are also at Anaheim and the Mariners are, of course, at Minute Maid giving them the longest odds.

The Blue Jays may have the biggest question marks. They play the Rays twice with the Yankees sandwiched in between. New York is awful and playing all young guys. The Rays are nearly out of the division race and well ahead in the Wild Card, so they could choose to rest guys before heading into the first week of the postseason.

Overall, despite the team, it feels advantage to the Blue Jays followed by the Astros, assuming they can actually win a game which also means quality pitching and hitting in the right situations. It appears that on days when the bats are going, they can't get guys out and when they are pitching lights out, the bats fall silent. Fortunately, that wasn't the case on Wednesday in the win before an off day.

It has been as perplexing as it is frustrating and missing the playoffs is a real possibility. That is simply an incredible thing to say considering the talent on this team and the last six years of greatness — never mind the World Series trophy just sitting there at Minute Maid. But, for now, they continue to maintain a lead by the narrowest of margins in the AL West and the Wild Card.

There will be plenty of scoreboard watching the next two weeks, but the most important scoreboard for the Astros is the one that ends with their own wins and losses.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke