After pounding the Rangers this past week, the Astros have a chance to take control in the AL West

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Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) waits to congratulate Jose Abreu (79) after Abreau hit a grand slam that also scored Jeremy Pena (3), Kyle Tucker (30) and Yordan Alvarez (44) in the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Houston Astros swept the Rangers in a Texas-sized rout, and now the question is whether the defending World Series champions will deny the AL West a thrilling division race.

The Astros won three games at Texas by a combined score of 39-10 this past week, then followed that up by taking two of three at home against San Diego. Houston now leads the AL West by 2 1/2 games over Seattle and three over Texas. And there's more bad news for those two challengers: Nine of the Astros' next 12 games are against Oakland or Kansas City, a stretch interrupted only by three games against AL East-leading Baltimore.

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If the Mariners and Rangers can stay within striking distance, then this could be the division to watch at the very end of the regular season. Seattle has a series at Texas from Sept. 22-24, then hosts Houston from Sept. 25-27. Then the Mariners host Texas from Sept. 28-Oct. 1

That's quite a few head-to-head matchups that could decide the AL West champion, but right now the Astros have won five of six and have a real opportunity to increase their lead even more.


The Blue Jays just faced a stretch of their schedule that was similar to what Houston has coming up — and Toronto took advantage. The Blue Jays played their last 12 games against Washington, Colorado, Oakland and Kansas City and won nine of them. They now occupy the American League's second wild card, a game ahead of Seattle and 1 1/2 up on Texas.


The Rangers still have the second-best run differential in the AL, but they've tumbled all the way out of playoff position by losing 16 of their last 22. After that disastrous series against the Astros, Texas did manage to take two of three from the Athletics, but a tough series at Toronto now awaits.


The Orioles have a major league-high 45 comeback wins, but the team chasing them in the AL East is not going down without a fight. The Tampa Bay Rays have produced five walkoff wins since Aug. 11, including two this past week on home runs by Brandon Loweand Yandy Díaz.

The Rays are now up to nine walkoff wins this year, one behind Cincinnati and Minnesota for the most in the big leagues.


The New York Yankees (71-72) are in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time since 1992, which would end baseball's longest active streak of .500-or-better finishes. Which team came into this season with the second-longest streak?


Jose Altuve homered in his first three plate appearances Tuesday night as the Astros drubbed Texas 14-1. Starting with Monday's game, he homered in four consecutive at-bats. And they came in four straight innings.


Cincinnati trailed Seattle 6-3 with one out in the bottom of the eighth Tuesday night before a walk, a single and a three-run homer by Nick Martini tied the game. Then speedy rookie Elly De La Cruz took over. He led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield hit, stole second and scored on Christian Encarnación-Strand's single to give the Reds a 7-6 win.


The St. Louis Cardinals haven't finished below .500 since 2007, although their run will end if they lose two more games this year. If both the Yankees and Cardinals have losing seasons, then the longest streak will belong to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who last finished under .500 in 2010.



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