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How real are the Astros’ chances to make it to the playoffs?

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The fate of the Astros to advance to the 2020 postseason is in their own hands. They have a 2-9 record in their last 11, but will be facing sub-.500 teams in their final 13 games.

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros are not having a good time right now. Entering Monday, they’ve dropped nine of their last 11 games and have lost some ground to the Seattle Mariners in the race for second place in the AL West. Even though it seems impossible now to reach first place with the Athletics being 6.5 games ahead, they still have chances considering their upcoming series.

But let’s take a look at it...

Fortunately, every game left on their schedule will be against sub-.500 teams:

  • 3-game series Vs. Rangers (.362), from 09/15 to 09/17
  • 3-game series Vs. Diamondbacks (.354), from 09/18 to 09/20
  • 3-game series Vs. Mariners (.457), from 09/21 to 09/23
  • 4-game series Vs. Rangers (.362), from 09/24 to 09/27

The Astros have gotten 19 wins against teams with a losing or an even record, that is, 83% of their victories. So this remaining schedule —10 games against last-place clubs— will be favorable for them. What they’ll need to overcome is their record on the road (7-17) as their final seven matchups will be as visitors.

It seems the most difficult challenge will be Seattle. Even though Houston has defeated the Mariners in six of seven face offs this year, they have won seven of their last 10 and their pitching (besides a 10-ER game against the Giants on September 9) has been pretty good lately.

Major adjustments

If the Astros really want to make it to the postseason for the fourth year in a row, they need to have a better performance from their pitching.

It’s not that the bullpen has been great —because it’s been far from that—, it’s just that the starters have been awful. Since September 4, they have a 0-5 record with a 7.11 combined ERA, worst in the American League. In their last 49 13 innings, they’ve allowed 55 hits, 39 earned runs, and 12 home runs.

It also seems the team will have to adjust without Justin Verlander, whom manager Dusty Baker expects to be back at the end of the month. The encouraging part is José Urquidy is finally back and he was better in his second outing against the A’s than he was in his 2020 debut, at Anaheim. Also, Lance McCullers Jr. will be activated from the injured list to face the Rangers on Wednesday.

But, hey, it won’t matter whether the Astros will have Verlander back at some point in September or Urquidy is as good as expected if Zack Greinke keeps struggling. It hasn’t gone good for him in his last five starts: 5.79 ERA, .797 OPS. Without JV, he’s the ace of the team. He needs to carry the rotation back to October baseball.

One positive point for the team has been to enjoy a better version of Ryan Pressly, filling Roberto Osuna’s role as the team’s closer:

  • Ryan Pressly’s first 9 appearances: 7.2 IP, 11 H, 5 CL, 4 BB, 9 K, 5.87 ERA, .865 OPS.
  • Ryan Pressly’s next 9 appearances: 8.2 IP, 7 H, 2 CL, 2 BB, 13 K, 2.08 ERA, .649 OPS.

Another aspect the Astros need to work out during the final games of the regular season is their offense. Their only red-hot hitter right now is George Springer, but the team needs its other horses to be on top. Take a look at how some of the most important Astros’ hitters have performed since September 4:

  • Alex Bregman: 2-for-16, 1 XBH, 1 RBI, 2 R, .125
  • Yuli Gurriel: 7-for-33, 2 XBH, 7 RBI, 3 R, .212
  • Josh Reddick: 5-for-30, 3 XBH, 6 RBI, 4 R, .167
  • Kyle Tucker: 8-for-37, 5 XBH, 7 RBI, 4 R, .216

The opportunity to make the 2020 postseason is in the hands of the team. In this particular campaign, securing the second place of the AL West means clinching a playoff berth, but they’ll need to play better during their final 13 games of the season if they want that to happen, especially when they face the Mariners.