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| Sports |

Astros Have a Chance to Break Away with Spate of AL West Games

La Piña has been crushing the ball lately.
La Piña has been crushing the ball lately.
Photo by Jack Gorman)
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The Astros have won five straight, sweeping the Mariners and the Rockies in consecutive series. Counting that series against Seattle, seven of their eight series between June 28 and July 24 are against AL West opponents. As of writing this, the Astros were eight games up on the A's for first place. If things go well over the next few weeks, they could blow the division race wide open.

Clearly, the Astros are the class of the AL West. They remain, even after a few slips in recent weeks, one of the best teams in baseball. As players have begun to return from injury and guys like Yuli Gurriel have really gotten hot, they seem to be reverting back to their winning ways. That should continue with the returns of Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz, never mind the discovery of young phenom Yourdan Alvarez and the possibility the Astros acquire an arm or two as the trade deadline approaches.

Even so, there is a real opportunity to blow wide open the lead in the AL West over the next few weeks and coast towards the playoffs, something they did in 2017, which allowed them to rest guys as the postseason approached.

Beginning Friday, they have three games at Minute Maid against the extremely mediocre Angels before going to Arlington for a four-game set against the Rangers who had managed to creep within about six games before falling back. Then, in an odd twist of the schedule, they travel to Anaheim for four games against the Angels before returning home for three games against Texas. Finally, they finish off the stretch of AL West opponents with three at home against the A's.

The 'Stros are obviously better than all three of those teams. If they were to win every series, assuming no sweeps, that's a 12-5 run that would stretch their lead in the division. Add in a sweep or two and the division title could be won by August 1.

The opposite, of course, would mean a much tougher stretch run even though it seems likely they will ultimately win the division, but why bother with that if you can widen the gap early?

In recent days, the Astros have felt like they have gotten back some of their swagger as well, winning in a variety of ways and averaging six runs per contest while holding their opponents to just over three. If that continues, the division race will be over before it ever gets started again.

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