Astros Hold Onto Slim Lead in AL West

Charlie Morton gave up six runs, but still got the win as the Astros offense blew up Wednesday.
Charlie Morton gave up six runs, but still got the win as the Astros offense blew up Wednesday. Photo by Jack Gorman
It looked like a laugher. Charlie Morton who, at times, has been the Astros best pitcher this season, was cruising. The offense had racked up 9 runs and looked poised to crush the Mariners in their final game in Seattle of the year. That's assuming they don't meet in the postseason which was becoming increasingly less likely heading into the sixth.

Five Mariners runs later, Morton was gone and the game was 9-7 with three innings to play.

Fortunately, Seattle didn't put any more runs on the board and the Astros tacked on one more in a 10-7 win. The win puts Seattle five-and-a-half games back in the division. It's not an insurmountable amount, but it's difficult with barely over a month remaining in the season.

Additionally, the A's lost to the Rangers putting them a full game back of the Astros. (As of writing this story, they were down to the Twins late in Minnesota on Thursday night).

The Astros now move on to Anaheim for a three-game series with the very mediocre Angels before an early-week showdown with the A's beginning Monday. That three game series against the A's may not decide the division, but it could go a long way in that direction.

Last season in August, the Astros had a comfortable double-digit lead heading into September. This season, they are in a dogfight, but there are signs their offense is beginning to turn around. In their last seven games, they have scored fewer than three runs only once and 10, 12 and 7 runs in three of those games.

Despite a tough outing for Charlie Morton, who gave up six earned runs (five in the fifth), the Astros remain one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. If the offense can turn it around, they could quickly return to the dangerous squad they were before the August swoon.

The fact that they now have nearly all their injured players back certainly helps. Within two weeks, they could be at full strength and, if they take care of business, back in control of the AL West.
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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