How Astros still have ace in the hole against new challengers to the crown

How Astros still have ace in the hole against new challengers to the crown
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The Houston Astros currently sit one game back in the AL West and hold the final Wild Card spot as we approach the final month of the season.

After the Astros face the Red Sox and Yankees this week, they begin a 3-game series against the Rangers next Monday that could have massive playoff implications.

One thing going for the club right now is that the bats appear to be getting hot at the right time. Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena had some spectacular performances against Detroit over the weekend. The offense has been uncharacteristically middle of the pack for most of the season, but they are now in the Top 10 for team slugging, OPS, and home runs.

Dropping 17 runs on the Tigers Sunday certainly helped to pad the stats.

The Astros schedule could be their ace in the hole

The other thing working in Houston's favor is the schedule. They have a more favorable schedule than the Mariners and Rangers as we approach the final stretch of the season. The 'Stros have two series with the Royals and one with the lowly A's during the month of September.

Those three series could be the difference between making the postseason and going home. It's been a long time since these games in late August and September have meant so much to the team.

Be sure to watch the video above as we discuss what the Astros have in front of them with the regular season quickly coming to an end.

Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on YouTube!

And be sure to listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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The Houston Astros managed to win the AL West once again, and while things got a little nerve wracking toward the end of the season, when it mattered most, the 'Stros took care of business.

It certainly didn't hurt to get a little help from the Mariners, beating the Rangers 1-0 on Sunday, paving the way for the Astros to secure the division. Rangers fans and members of their broadcast team were none too pleased with the Diamondbacks resting some of their starters on Sunday.

But let's be real, with the division on the line, the Rangers couldn't even manage to score a single run on Sunday against Seattle. That's why they're playing in the Wild Card series, not because of how Arizona approached Sunday's game.

So what did we learn during these must-win games over the last week? A lot was made of GM Dana Brown's comments on the team's flagship station. Brown was hoping manager Dusty Baker would put the best offensive lineup on the field. Yainer Diaz did not start a single game of the Diamondbacks series. But Chas McCormick played every game of the Mariners and Diamondbacks series, except for the finale against Seattle, after being hit in the back with a fastball the night before.

Michael Brantley played in two of three against Arizona, so he appears to be an option Dusty will turn to moving forward. And with the Astros only scoring 1 and 2 runs in two of the three wins against the D-Backs, the Astros need every bit of offense they can get.

Plus, we discuss how getting extra rest for Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu, and the bullpen could pay huge dividends for the club. And don't look now, but Jose Abreu is getting hot at just the right time!

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion.

And be sure to watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportMapHouston's YouTube channel.

Listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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