Welcome to the Monday Boil!
The sky isn’t falling. The Houston Astros will be ok, and so will you. Go outside and look at some trees. There’s 13 dead teams, and the Astros are still among the living.
Houston Astros News
Astros enter crunch time in tight AL West division race (Houston Chronicle)
Scorching Royals complete 3-game sweep of Astros (Sportsnaut)
AL West News
Texas Rangers Have Starting Pitching Opening for Los Angeles Angels Series (Sports Illustrated)
Angels pitchers can’t stop Ryan Jeffers in series loss to Twins (Los Angeles Times)
What John Fisher told Oakland mayor about A’s planned Vegas move (NBC Sports Bay Area)
‘We will turn the page’: Mariners swept by Texas. Season-defining homestand looms (Tacoma News Tribune)
Houston Astros Birthdays
RHP David Weathers (54) played for nine teams over a 19-season MLB career, including 26 games for the Houston Astros in 2004. He did this despite starting the season with the New York Mets and finishing it with the Florida Marlins. For the Astros, Weathers was 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA over 32 innings, striking out 26 with a 1.375 WHIP and a 4.96 FIP.
RHP Ron Mathis (65) made eight starts and 23 trips out of the bullpen for Houston in 1985 and 1987. In 82 innings he struck out 42 with a 1.598 WHIP and a 5.93 ERA.
Between 1980 and 1985, RHP Mike Stanton (71) appeared in 270 games between the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners, and the Chicago White Sox. Five years prior to that, in 1975, he made seven appearances with the Astros. In 17 1⁄3 innings he had 16 strikeouts and a 2.308 WHIP.
Left-side infielder Ray Busse (75) appeared in 44 games for Houston in 1971, 1973 and 1974. He hit .153 with four RBI while providing above-average defense at the hot corner and considerably less so at shortstop.
New York Mets (March 30, 2023 — September 22, 2023)
Even with a price tag that nobody had ever seen before, the Mets weren’t really in the playoff conversation much past May. Starting June at 27-25, the Mets followed with a month where they won at a pace less than replacement level, going 7-19 and dropping from the picture.
All this led to a completely unexpected selloff in which the Astros regained future Hall-of-Fame starter Justin Verlander for a fraction of his actual cost. The Mets will continue to pay the lion’s share of his salary, even as Houston reaps the possible rewards for his continued service. The only problem with that was the loss of two highly touted prospects. How much of a cost still remains to be seen.
Houston won two-of-three in direct competition with the Mets, losing the opener 11-1 then winning 4-2 and 10-8 between June 19 and June 21.
Detroit Tigers (March 30, 2023 — September 22, 2023)
Like the Mets, the Tigers got to June still somewhat in the picture, opening the month at 26-28. It all changed rather quickly as Detroit lost their first nine games and 11-of-12 to open the month.
It’s telling that excepting that particular stretch from their record that Detroit posted a .500 record. In their in-division play in particular, the Tigers were 8-5 against both the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, while going 7-3 (so far) against the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Guardians. So if you’re counting, the Tigers were 30-16 in baseball’s weakest division, and 42-67 out of it, and have won or clinched all four tiebreakers within the American League Central.
Detroit fared rather well against the Astros, splitting their six games by winning two-of-three at MMP and losing two-of-three at Comerica Park. In the last game between the two, on August 27, Justin Verlander picked up his 10th win of the season in a 17-4 curb stomp courtesy of homers by Kyle Tucker (26), Mauricio Dubón (7), Martín Maldonado (11) and Yainer Diaz (19).
Cleveland Guardians (March 30, 2023 — September 22, 2023)
Like Detroit, the Guardians were eliminated on Friday when the Minnesota Twins topped the Los Angeles Angels, 8-6. Although Cleveland is currently eight games under .500, they were a winning team as late as July 27, when they trailed the division lead by just 1.5 games at 52-51.
The Guardians were expected to repeat as AL Central Division Champions, but it turned out that the competition in the middle of the country isn’t quite the same as on either side. The Twins, who have clinched the title and pretty much assured themselves of the three-seed going into the postseason, are merely the least objectionable club in the division for a playoff berth.
In play versus Houston, the Guardians won two times in six efforts. This includes an improbable three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park, punctuated by a 3-2 Astros win in the finale, on August 2.
Boston Red Sox (March 30, 2023 — September 22, 2023)
For a large portion of the season, the last-place team in the American League East had a better record than the first-place team in the American League Central. For a lot of that time, that was the Boston Red Sox. As late as three weeks ago, the Red Sox were six games above .500, at 72-66 before dropping from the picture with a 4-13 record since.
There seemed to be a better-than-even possibility of seeing all three wildcard positions being held by AL East teams for the first half of the campaign, before the AL West swooped in with three probable playoff teams (fingers crossed).
Houston split their four games at MMP against the BoSox, of course sweeping the three-game set at Fenway Park. Maybe it really does bode well that Houston seems to be aimed directly at the number six seed, where every series will be an away series.
Pittsburgh Pirates (March 30, 2023 — September 24, 2023)
The Pirates were the feel-good story of the first month of the season, coming out with guns blazing to a 20-8 record on April 29, with 6-3 and 16-1 victories over the Washington Nationals in a doubleheader that day. Since then, the Bucs had losing records in each month of the season, right up until (but not including) September.
Like the AL Central, the NL Central seemed to be the weakest division in the league, with only the Milwaukee Brewers seeming to challenge for a spot in the postseason. Of course, in recent days, both the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds are still banging around and trying to make enough noise to get a ticket to the prom.
Houston won two-of-three against Pittsburgh at PNC Park, including the final game on April 12, which Houston won 7-0. Corey Julks (1) and Alex Bregman (2) went deep in that one, as José Urquidy (1-0, 2.35) pitched six innings of two-hit ball for his first win of the year.
New York Yankees (March 30, 2023 — September 24, 2023)
I notice that PlayoffMagic.com has yet to denote the Bombers as eliminated, but as of the time I’m writing this, the Yankees can tie only the Astros, but only if New York wins every game and Houston loses every game. Although that remains a possibility, if that happens then the Yankees will finish behind the Mariners and the Blue Jays, rendering them spectators at best in every situation that exists.
The Yankees did enjoy their moment in the sun, at a season-best 11 games above .500 on June 4, at 36-25. They also won five-of-seven against those terrible Houston Astros, including a three-game sweep at MMP to begin September. Alas, a huge payroll and a zip code that starts with 1-0 doesn’t guarantee any play past the start of October.
It does my heart well to know that even if Houston somehow chokes their way out of the playoffs, at least the Yankees choked first.
This weekend leaves 17 teams left in contention, including only seven in the American League. The National League wildcard picture is...still pretty wild.