In the span of the next 15 days, including today, the Astros have a chance to strengthen those already hefty odds (96.1 percent per FanGraphs) to qualify for the postseason. Of course, when one mentions postseason odds, it does help to note that the Wild Card game is a potential outcome. Not likely in Houston’s current situation, but it still a rather stressful outcome to have if certain things don’t break right.
That is why the upcoming schedule starting with today’s three-game series against the A’s at Minute Maid Park marks the beginning of an important stretch of baseball for these Astros. For one, a strong performance, especially in this upcoming series, would grant a bit more separation in the AL West standings against the second-place A’s. With a current lead of 3 1⁄2 games, Houston isn’t at danger of losing the division lead before Friday, but losing ground to the A’s in July will only lead to more heartburn in August and September.
As it currently stands, the Astros have an 86 percent chance to win the AL West this season. The A’s, on the other hand, are currently at 11.9 percent. A large divide in the odds, yes, but it isn’t something I feel too comfortable with at this juncture in the season. You shouldn’t as well.
While it is reassuring to see your favorite club with favorable odds, please remember that these figures are subject to change. The games still have to be played and we’ve already seen these same Astros become ice cold as quickly as they turn red hot. But, to their credit, Houston has a .512 strength of schedule, which is tied with the Phillies for the third-hardest in baseball thus far.
Outside of the A’s, the schedule also represents a golden opportunity to solidify their overall standing in the AL. The Yankees, for example, are visiting Houston next as the last series before the All-Star game next week. While New York is scuffling right now, their talent is still noteworthy and should remain a threat in possibly derailing any positive momentum. The Astros then head to Chicago to face the AL Central-leading White Sox in what should be a tough three-game set followed by a trip home to face Cleveland once again. Outside of a series against the Rangers in a couple of weeks, the Astros don’t play against a club with a losing record — as of today — for the entire month of July. Plus, a quick two-games series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles to start the month of August looms. Home field advantage in the postseason, or for portions of it, would be a nice prize. Of course, I thought the same thing back in 2019 before the Astros lost all four home games in the World Series with Justin Verlander (x2), Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke starting those games.
Regardless of my depressing note above, a strong showing in July means that the Astros have afforded themselves a bit of breathing room in August and September. A 4-0 start to the month is a great place to start, but this month represents Houston’s toughest remaining stretch on the season. With a 52-33 record, we know that this roster can handle playing teams with winning records. Whether or not this trend continues may hold some noteworthy implications as the trade deadline approaches by the end of the month and how this club plans to proceed the rest of the way.