Gauntlet Over; Can Astros Salvage Playoff Spot?

added 09/15/2016 by Bob Hulsey

No more Rangers, no more Cubs. No more Indians. The Astros' schedule "gauntlet" where they ran through the best of baseball is finally over. With two weeks to go, Houston sits in third behind Seattle in the AL West and a Tal's Hill throw to the plate behind the Rangers.

The Astros are 10-1/2 games back of the Rangers with a magic number of six (Arlington wins or Houston losses) from elimination.

Face it, it's over.

Whatever playoff hope still remains would be in grabbing a wild card spot. Even then, the Astros stand 3-1/2 games behind (four in the loss column) and will need to overtake the Mariners, the Tigers and most of the AL East to claim the last spot.

The remaining schedule is six games against the Mariners, three at Oakland and seven against the lowly Angels. A doable 10-6 record gets them to the same 86-win mark they reached last year but it means Toronto would have to go 6-11 the rest of the way, Detroit would go 7-8 and the Yankees no better than 8-7. Not really likely.

The inability of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to replicate their 2015 successes and the injury to Lance McCullers seemed to doom the Astros. In some ways, it's amazing they have played as well as they have.

I think General Manager Jeff Luhnow sensed the collapse as far back as July when he didn't make any big deadline trades so he began re-tooling for next year. Certainly, injuries to Luis Valbuena and Colby Rasmus quickly forced his hand.

Just as Wednesday's win put a smiley face on another disastrous Lone Star Series, the two-week finishing kick will put a happy smile on the Astros' 2016 season but this is a team with no true ace, no true closer and four good hitters with a bunch of question marks everywhere else. Some major alterations will need to be made before this team can be considered a pennant contender.