It’s hard to call a 93-win season a disappointment. Especially when there are still ten games to be played.
Even so, it’s hard for Houston fans not to be a little bummed by the current American League standings. While the Astros have played well lately, winning seven of their last nine games, the Cleveland Indians have been even better. With another victory on Thursday night, Cleveland has taken a staggering 27 of their last 28 contests. That puts them 2.5 games ahead of the Astros for the best record in the league.
Such a distinction may seem rather negligible. The Astros, after all, have already won their division. But this team is looking ahead to October baseball, and they know that the club with the best record will be awarded home-field advantage in a potential post-season series. The possibility of an Astros-Indians playoff set has loomed large since early this season.
To catch Cleveland, Houston will have to rely on the considerable talent of their roster – and on luck. Each of the Astros’ three remaining opponents (the Angels, the Rangers, and the Red Sox) have records of .500 or better. The Angels and Rangers are frantically duking it out with the Minnesota Twins for a shot at a Wild Card berth. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are busy fending off the surging New York Yankees for the AL East division crown. In other words, all three teams will be playing each game like it’s must-win baseball.
Cleveland, meanwhile, will take on the under-.500 Seattle Mariners and the last-place Chicago Whitesox to close out the season, with a three-game series against the contending Twins sandwiched in between. To close the gap between the two teams, the Astros will have to win a lot, against better competition, and hope that the Indians start to cool off.
Further complicating the matter is this: The Indians own a dominant 5-1 record against the Astros this year. In the event that the teams finish the regular season with the same record, home-field advantage will go to Cleveland for their superior head-to-head credentials. So effectively, the ‘Stros have 10 games remaining to make up 3.5 games in the standings.
They’ll take their first crack at it tonight, when Justin Verlander opposes Garrett Richards of the Angels in his second home start at Minute Maid. The game kicks off the last Astros’ home stand of the regular season. Check out our guide to the Minute Maid ballpark experience, then grab your tickets online. First pitch is at 7:10 Central – it’s a beautiful night for a ballgame.