The Oakland A’s still have to watch the rearview mirror as the Houston Astros are not going away any time soon.
At this time last week, the Oakland A’s appeared to have the AL West well in hand. They were in the midst of a nine game winning streak, and were the only team in the division over .500. Meanwhile, the Houston Astros, the A’s primary competition, were dealing with injuries and a makeshift roster, their reign atop the division seemingly over.
The problem is that someone forgot to tell the Astros. While the A’s were basking in the glow of their winning streak and seemingly punching their ticket as a top seed in the playoffs, the Astros started to get hot. They had an eight game winning streak of their own snapped on Friday, and are currently trailing the A’s by 3.5 games.
This run is all the more impressive due to the injuries that have decimated their roster. Zack Grienke is pitching at a different level this year, but reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has thrown only six innings. The bullpen is missing four key relievers, including closer Roberto Osuna.
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Houston’s lineup has also been hit hard. AL MVP runner up Alex Bregman is on the Injured List, as is All Star outfielder Michael Brantley. Yordan Alvarez, the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year runner up, played two games before being lost for the year. George Springer has been dealing with injuries throughout the season. And Jose Altuve still finds himself on the interstate.
With those injuries, the Astros have had to rely upon a litany of rookies and castoffs in the bullpen and the rotation. Their depth has been tested in the lineup, with Houston trying to piece their roster together. Chances are, they will be active at the deadline, looking for pieces to keep their postseason run going.
As it stands, the Astros are the sixth seed in the American League. With the rest of the division struggling, it is highly probable that Houston will return to the playoffs. The Astros also have added motivation this season due to the fallout from AstroGate. They will not fade quietly into the night.
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And that is something that the Oakland A’s will need to keep an eye on. The Houston Astros are still a threat, and as the disclaimer says, objects in the rearview window may be closer than they appear.