In spite of getting to watch the most dominant team in baseball for the first half of the season, fans of the Astros must be feeling uneasy about the immediate future. Houston went 60-29 for the first three months, but since the halfway point they have lost more than they have won.
The front office did little at the trade deadline, partly because the Astros had such a huge lead in the American League West that the playoffs were almost a certainty. Other contenders like Washington and Los Angeles had similarly huge leads, but they acquired players who will help them in the playoffs.
Most baseball pundits assumed that at the trade deadline the Astros would have added a starter to strengthen its pitching rotation, a veteran like Yu Darvish of the Rangers, Justin Verlander of the Tigers, or Sonny Gray of the Athletics. After failing to improve its staff, Houston then suffered the loss of its ace.
Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel went on the disabled list in July, which was a huge setback for the Astros. The left hander has since returned, but he is winless in three starts with a whopping 10.50 earned run average.
During that same recent span, number two starter Lance McCullers is also winless with an E.R.A. of 9.42. With both of the top arms in the rotation struggling, the Astros have to be fearful of an early departure from the postseason.
There is another reason, perhaps less obvious than the pitching issues, to be pessimistic about Houston’s chances to advance in the playoffs. It concerns their probable opponents in either the American League Division Series or the Championship, since in at least one of those contests the Astros will have to play a team from the Central Division.
For some reason Houston has really struggled against the teams in the middle bracket of the Junior Circuit. The Astros have a losing record against those five clubs, including a 1-5 record with likely Central champ Cleveland.
They also have a losing record against the Wild Card contender in Kansas City, the opponent the Astros would meet in the first round should they hold on to the league’s best record. To top it all off, Houston is winless in three games against the White Sox, who reside in last place in the Central.
The good news is that should Houston somehow overcome its futility against the Central and win its first ever American League pennant, it has an excellent prognosis for winning the World Series. The record for the Astros against the National League is the best in baseball, having won nine of their ten interleague contests this season.