How new contenders have surfaced to challenge Astros postseason push

STONE COLD 'STROS

The Houston Astros are heading to Miami to begin a series against the Marlins after taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels. Despite the Astros hot start out of the All-Star break, they still can't seem to find a way to catch the Texas Rangers.

And don't look now, but the Seattle Mariners are making a late to push to try to win the division, relying on their elite pitching (currently ranked first in baseball in team ERA).

Seattle has also beaten Houston five times out of the seven times they've played in 2023. So the upcoming series against them could prove critical for the Astros, as they don't want to lose the tiebreaker.

The Astros have managed to play well overall this season without their best hitters getting hot at the same time. Whether it be injuries or slumps, the club hasn't been able to fire on all cylinders. Is it unfair to expect the team to put it all together come playoff time?

The bottom third of the lineup isn't as talented as it was in years past, so expecting that to change when the playoffs start feels like a big ask. But if Jon Singleton and Yainer Diaz prove they deserve more playing time, Houston's lineup could look a lot more formidable, even if they're just used a bit more in a timeshare scenario with Jose Abreu and Martin Maldonado.

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

And don't forget to watch the Stone Cold 'Stros podcast every Monday.

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Raners defeat the Astros, 4-2. Composite Getty Image.

Josh Smith homered twice with four RBIs to lead the Texas Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Smith had a two-run shot in the first and added another one with two outs in the eighth to push the lead to 4-1. It’s the first multi-homer game of the 26-year-old’s career.

The Rangers won the last two games of the series after dropping Friday’s opener 6-3. They also got a 2-1 victory Saturday thanks to Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI single in the 10th inning.

Jake Meyers cut the lead to 1 with a solo home run in the third but the Astros went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position to fall to 50-46 entering the All-Star break.

Texas starter Max Scherzer allowed four hits and a run with six strikeouts in four-plus innings in his fifth start of the season.

Jon Singleton walked before a single by Jeremy Peña with no outs in the ninth. There was one out in the inning when Singleton scored on a groundout by Joey Loperfido to cut the lead to 4-2. Trey Cabbage grounded out to end it and give Kirby Yates his 16th save.

Ronel Blanco (9-4) permitted two hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings. He settled down after his tough first inning and retired the last 12 batters he faced.

Marcus Semien singled to start the game but was out at second when Corey Seager grounded into a foreceout. Smith gave the Rangers an early lead with his towering shot to the second deck to make it 2-0.

Meyers opened Houston’s third with a shot to the seats in left field to cut the lead to 2-1. Jose Altuve singled with two outs and stole second base but Scherzer struck out Alex Bregman for the third out.

The Astros had a shot to tie it or take the lead in the fifth. Peña and Meyers both singled before Loperfido walked to load the bases with no outs in the inning and chase Scherzer. Josh Sborz (2-0) took over and escaped the jam by striking out Mauricio Dubón before retiring Altuve on a pop up and Bregman on a groundout to end the inning.

Seager walked with two outs in the eighth before Smith connected again to give him 10 home runs this season.

Altuve reached on a fielding error by Smith with one out in the eighth before Bregman singled off José Leclerc. Jacob Latz took over and struck out Yordan Alvarez before Yainer Diaz grounded out to leave Houston emptyhanded again.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Josh Jung (fractured right wrist) swung 15 times off a tee using a regular bat Sunday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he would continue increasing his activity during the break as he nears a rehabilitation assignment.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (neck discomfort) threw a bullpen session of 25 pitches Sunday. Manager Joe Espada said he looked “really good” and would throw another bullpen session during the break.

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