At first it seems counterintuitive that a division’s last place team would control the fate of the other teams within it. One would think either the Texas Rangers or the Oakland Athletics would control the AL West’s destiny, but if we take a take a closer look, we’ll see it’s because they’re in last place that the Houston Astros will dictate the other team’s standings. The reason for this is simple; the Astros are the club the other teams in the American League West need to beat.
We can see this happening already. The top three teams are currently the Texas Rangers (14-7), the Oakland Athletics (13-9), and the Los Angeles Angels (8-12). They have a combined 10 wins and two losses against the Astros. The Seattle Mariners (8-15), however, are in fourth place and have only two wins against Houston, while they have suffered four losses.
There are plenty of folks out there who like to bash the Astros and talk about how bad they are. They would almost have you believe the Astros are so bad, other teams could win by replacing their lineup with fans they pull from the stands. Houston is not that bad. While there is no question the Astros simply lack the talent of just about every other team in the league, it would be a mistake for one of those teams to think they can just show up and get a win against the Houston Astros. Seattle found that out the hard way. I’m not saying the Mariners didn’t have their heads in the games they lost, but they made a lot of basic mistakes. In their last game against Houston, the Mariner pitchers threw pitches right over the plate, and the Astros made them pay by hitting three home runs. The Mariners also had poor at bats and had runners in scoring position in the second inning, but Seattle failed to score them.
As for the other teams in the American League West, Oakland should be feeling good despite being in second place. Of the top three teams, they’re the only ones to play Houston six times; they are also the only team of the three to win every game they’ve played against the Astros. They will, however, need to keep beating the Astros, and playing like they did when they were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays is not the way to do it. Already Having six wins against the Houston Astros will put pressure on Los Angeles and Texas to do the same. The Angels will get their chance to play the Astros on May 7, and Texas will get their chance on May 10.