With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, things get serious for the Astros in a hurry. Their break is a day shorter than most due to Thursday’s massive double-header inclusion against the Yankees. Hey, at least the Astros are home. The Yankees have clearly been the best team in Major League Baseball this season. Their 64-28 record puts them on track to win 112 ridiculous matches. If they win 112, the Astros have no chance of catching them for the best MLS record, and a domestic advantage in a potentially baffling AL Championship Series match. The Yankees are unlikely to win 112 but they wouldn’t need that many Ws to secure the top seed. The Astros came out of the second-half gate with an impressive 59-32 resume, but that’s four and a half games back from the Yankees.
Yanks don’t have Gerrit Cole pitched any matches. He does not give up on the stars. Cole pitched Sunday so he ruled it out. Let’s summarize the probabilities of the twin bill outcome:
Sweep the Astros! This would put the Yankees in trouble. The Astros would close in on a day over two-and-a-half games, clinching a home tiebreak thanks to their 5-2 season series win, knowing they had an easier schedule the rest of the way due to the three poor teams in the AL. West vs. not bad teams in East.
Win one, lose one. The Yankees’ lead would hold at four and a half, but that could be beaten (a word?) given the timelines. The split would give the Astros a season streak over the Yankees 4-3, ensuring a tie-breaker.
The Yankees win, so the Yankees win twice. The Astros will fall six and a half backwards. Not a total torment but a major setback, as they will also lose the tiebreak and suddenly face a bit of pressure on the way to Seattle for the weekend. Kudos if you get John Sterling’s reference.
Sleepless in Seattle?
Seattle for the weekend. The Astros All West do nine healthy (although down 13) so they don’t feel the Mariners’ breath on the backs of their necks, but oh my goodness they’re hot sailors. They surged to 14 consecutive games at All-Star Break. Prior to that, they had won eight out of 11, 22-3 in their last 25 matches. It went well for the team with 22 wins in 25 games, but Seattle’s showing was amazing. The Bullpen Astros were the best in the major leagues this year with an average earned run of 2.66. While playing 25 games, the ERA pen from M is 1.49. Elias Sports Bureau conducted research and learned that only three teams had previously won ten in a row in the first half (the first All-Star Game was played in 1933). Those teams won 10 in a row, and they all won the pennant. Settled in Seattle, it is very likely that she will not participate in the World Championships. Neither the 1935 Tigers nor the 1945 Cubs had to win any series of post-season episodes to reach the World Championships. In 1975 the Reds had to win one. Sailors will have to win three wild cards, and two if they win the score. Wait, win the division? It’s nine games behind the Astros.
The Astros and Mariners play three games in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, then four are set at Minute Maid Park starting next Thursday. If the M’s, say, win five of the seven, we’ll have an unexpected legitimate division race. Conversely, the Astros win four or more of them, and go back to sleep in Seattle. The increase of their sailors in command of the Wild Card spot. Like the Astros have a schedule advantage over the Yankees, sailors benefit from cannibalism in the AL East between the Rays, Blue Jays, and Red Sox (and Orioles?!?). Yes, the playing field is now watered down with three wild cards per league, but the Mariners last played a playoff in 2001. The 20-year drought is the longest in major league sports in North America. That season, the Mariners set their still 15-game winning streak, en route to an MLB win record of 116. The Astros are trying to deny the M 15 in a row on Friday night.
The million dollar question
The prevailing astronomical question from the second half… How is Jordan’s right hand? Alvarez went on the injured list and missed the last seven matches because of him. Without Alvarez, the Astros lineup is no better than average. Much less issue but certainly not unimportant, Michael Brantley’s stature. Brantley’s right shoulder is roughly the same that cost him the entire 2016 season. Even with those guys back, General Manager James Click must go after the bats to solidify the squad (I think I mentioned catcher and/or first base once or ten). If you fancy getting Juan Soto citizens, never say never but let’s call it highly improbable. Soto can only be a free agent after the 2024 season, so the Astros won’t need to set aside half a billion dollars, but the Nats will demand a king’s ransom for a star younger than Jordan Alvarez by more than a year. Astros’ farm system is weak, plus prospects alone won’t wipe it out. Thinking of Luis Garcia, Hunter Brown, and Jeremy Pena in Soto? Even if that were the case, that might not be nearly enough. The trade deadline is 5pm Houston time per week starting on Tuesday.