Now alone in second place, 3-1/2 back in the wild card, and approaching the middle of the pack in season-long runs scored, it has gotten to the point where those who ignore the Astros do so at their own peril.
Other than a few recent and nearly meaningless bumps from the top end of the bullpen, the Astros are getting stellar play right now from all sections of the roster. Obviously it can't last forever, but it can be extended, and the slump when it does come will be brief, because of the solid and consistent starting pitching.
We have now demoralized the Nationals, and while a split of the remaining two games is still viable, the final score tonight opens up the possibility that the Nationals will drop even deeper into the funk they've been in, and a four-game sweep has entered the realm of realistic possibility.
Backe, as ever, needs to throw strikes early.