The Houston Astros pulled off a 2-1 game series win over the Rangers for their final home game series, and that series win kept the Astros hovering just half a game above the Los Angeles Angels in the 2nd wildcard spot, and 1 and a half games above the Minnesota Twins. With each of the teams having only a handful of games left (Astros have 6 games remaining and the Angels and Twins have 7) and less than 2 games separating any of these teams from the wildcard spot, the Astros have to show up every single day of this last 6-game road trip.
The Rangers are in the rear view mirror, and so is the chance of reclaiming the AL West lead. There is a narrow margin still that can bring back that title to the Astros, and that would involve a full sleep of the remaining two series, an end-of-season collapse for the Rangers, or a series of numerical combinations of both. If the Astros go 6-0 and the Rangers go 4-3, there’d be a series tie and playoff. If the Rangers went 3-4, the Astros would take it, as well as going 5-1 with a Rangers 2-5 finish, and so on. Possible – but not probable.
The wildcard is possible, but still not guaranteed for any team. Any loss will be a tremendous gain for any team still in contention. A single loss for the Twins is equivalent to 3 for the Astros, and 2 for the Angels. In turn, the Twins would have to win twice the number of games as the Astros in the final stretch in order to take the spot, as well as finishing 1 game over the Angels. With that deficit, one cannot rule out the Twins for the final wild card spot, but it’s likely as probable as an AL West title for the Astros.
So, with the wildcard within reach, and a slim half-game lead over the Angels, the Astros need to start strong. A loss wouldn’t necessarily sink the Astros, but it could take them out of a possible playoff spot for the first time in the season with an Angels win. In my own humble opinion, if the Astros lose the wildcard spot with any loss or losses to start the final week of the season, they won’t be taking it back. That’s why it is essential to come out strong in this final stretch.
There is only so much a person can say about the last 6 or 7 games, but it’s all nerve and willpower at this point. It’s do or die. Go big or go home (quite literally for the Astros). Stats of our success at home or on the road won’t tell us the winner here. Win/loss percentages for each opponent the Astros face won’t tell the tale. How much the Astros want this and can play outside of their own heads will decide who wins this.