The Houston Astros have struggled some as of late, and it might be now or never as they face the surging Oakland A’s.
Heading into the All-Star Break, the Houston Astros looked like they were well on their way to reaching another World Series. However, injuries to some key players saw their confidence decline at a rapid pace. The Astros massive AL West lead dwindled and the A’s started putting the pressure on, even tying them atop the division at one point.
Despite five straight wins, Houston is still feeling the pressure from Oakland, who sit 1.5 games back. Now, with the two teams set to square off this weekend, the stakes are huge. But, it’s the Astros who have more to lose.
On June 25, the Astros sat among the best teams in the league with a 52-28 record. Now? Houston is 80-50, clinging onto a 1.5 game lead in the division. But, what’s so significant about June 25? June 25 was the last time Houston’s core (Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer) began a game together. The team has struggled some in each man’s absence, stringing together a 28-22 record.
Although the Astros are on a five-game win streak heading into the weekend, beating the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners isn’t exactly impressive. Further, Houston hasn’t always looked convincing in those victories. But, for the last two months, the team has had an excuse to fall back on — they weren’t at full strength.
Now, they have their superstars back in arguably their most important series of the season to date. If the Astros are really out to silence critics and show the MLB they’re not settling with just one trophy, they’ll need to put on a convincing performance this week at Minute Maid Park. They need a confidence boost and a bigger lead in their division, this series couldn’t come at a better time.
On the other hand, their opponents have no reason to hold back. The A’s are going to give Houston everything they’ve got as they strive to make one final push in the division. If they succeed? The A’s take a lead in the AL West with one month of baseball left. If they don’t? Oakland has games against the New York Yankees, Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays next month. These teams are all contenders for the two Wild Card spots. Therefore, even with a series loss in Houston, the A’s control their own destiny.
Nobody expected the Astros to face any opposition in their division this season. However, the A’s are coming and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down. In order to get back on track and build confidence heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the Astros need to handle their business against Oakland at home this week.