As the midway point of August passes, the Houston Astros find themselves in an unfamiliar position at the top of the American League West with a little more than a month and a half to play in the season.
If the Astros want to give themselves a serious chance at making the postseason, taking advantage of every home game is going to give them their best opportunity to play in October.
It’s no secret among Astros fans how much better the team plays in the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park with a record of 40-19. Only the Kansas City Royals (42-20) have a better home record.
The Astros lead in the division has moved up to a three and a half games over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and four games over the Texas Rangers, who are riding a four-game winning streak and surging for first place.
After beating the Tigers 6-5 in walk-off fashion Sunday, the final seven games of the current 10-game home stand could prove to be crucial for the team’s playoff hopes.
The next four games for the Astros come against the Rays, a team that is sitting a game below .500. Taking advantage of a lesser opponent at home is a must as Houston finishes up with three games against the Dodgers, who are on a three-game win streak and in the midst of their own divisional battle with a two and a half game lead in the National League West.
If the Astros can come out of this home stretch with their lead in the division built to five or more games before heading back out on the road with six against the Yankees and Twins to finish out August, they will put themselves in a great position for the final month of the season.
As far as the second and third horses in the division go, Angels are at home against the Chicago White Sox and the Rangers start a three-game set against Seattle before they head back out on the road.
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The Angels have been scuffling a bit, but it looks as if they may catch a break and miss out on having to face Chris Sale. LAA finishes up their home stand with three games against white hot Blue Jays before starting a road trip of their own against the Tigers, Indians and Athletics for nine games.
The Rangers have been a bit of a mystery. They are one of the few teams still in the playoff hunt with a losing record at home. For three games, they are hosting a Mariners team that has also played better on the road than at home. After that, a four-game a matchup on the road is a precursor to six games against the Blue Jays and Orioles at home to finish out the month.
The good news for the Astros and their fans, nine of their final 12 games in the season will be played at Minute Maid Park. If Houston comes into the final stretch of the season having done their job, the playoffs will be in their grasps for the first time since the World Series in 2005.
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