HOUSTON -- As October draws closer, the Astros, still battling back from a disappointing April as they seek the postseason, are starting to feel the pressure of important August games.
That pressure was on full display Saturday night, when All-Star second baseman José Altuve was ejected in Houston's 3-2 loss to the Rangers after arguing a strike call in the heat of the moment with home-plate umpire Alan Porter.
"It got my emotions a little higher," Altuve said Sunday, "and I got thrown out."
Altuve, who had never been ejected before, normally doesn't argue many strike calls, but the frustration of Saturday's loss coupled with the club's play over the past few weeks -- Houston had lost seven of its past nine entering Sunday -- boiled over.
"I think our situation right now, close games, I felt like I wanted to win the game," Altuve said. "I wanted to get on base for [Carlos Correa]. I didn't like the pitch, but that's part of baseball. Nothing personal … these games are going to be a lot of pressure, a lot of emotion."
Manager A.J. Hinch said he didn't think Altuve getting ejected was a symptom of the August pressure being too much to handle for his team.
"I think guys don't like called third strikes that they disagree with in April," Hinch said. "I don't think it matters when you feel like you were wronged in an at-bat."
That said, Hinch did make it known that the Astros are feeling the grind of fighting so hard to be back in the postseason race. Houston started its season 7-17 after April and bottomed out at 17-28 on May 22, but it has since bounced back to a 57-53 record entering Sunday.
"We've worked our tail off to get to even where we're at. … I know it's been a little bit of a roller-coaster season for us," Hinch said, "but for those of us that have been here the entire season, it's been a grind and an uphill battle."
As of Sunday morning, the Astros were four games out of a Wild Card spot and 6 1/2 behind the Rangers for the American League West lead.
"It's all magnified [right now]," Hinch said. "These games matter."