The Mariners made themselves one of baseball's best stories over the past month. They've won 22 of their past 29, doing so without Robinson Cano, becoming the darlings of the sport in the process with one close win after another. They've gotten exemplary starting pitching, some superb relief work and
The Mariners made themselves one of baseball's best stories over the past month. They've won 22 of their past 29, doing so without Robinson Cano, becoming the darlings of the sport in the process with one close win after another. They've gotten exemplary starting pitching, some superb relief work and just enough offense to eke out wins.
And yet, it's hard to avoid the feeling that the second-place Mariners have taken their biggest, fiercest swing at the division-leading Astros, and that Houston has sustained the blow just fine.
Even with Seattle maxing out its results, not only winning at a scalding clip (.639) but far outperforming its run differential (plus-22), the Astros enter Tuesday with a two-game lead in the American League West. That's because, as you may have heard, Houston hasn't lost since June 5.
And the defending World Series champion Astros aren't winning squeakers, either. While 10 of Seattle's 12 wins in June have come by one or two runs, only four of Houston's past 12 wins have been that close. They're winning big, and winning often, on the way to by far the Majors' best run differential.
And the schedule?
Between now and the All-Star break, Houston does not play a game against a team that currently has a winning record. The Astros' next four weeks consist of series against the Rays (33-39), Royals (22-50), Blue Jays (33-38), Rangers (30-44), White Sox (24-47), A's (36-36) and Tigers (36-37), with 19 of the 25 games at home. It's just about impossible to have a more favorable stretch.
During that same time, the Mariners have series against the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels (as well as some against less robust opponents), with 16 of 25 games away from Safeco Field.
The Astros may very well have baseball's best, deepest, most complete roster. Their record and run differential show a team that has played at least as well as anyone -- if not better than everyone. And they're about to enter a stretch of schedule that could not favor them more.
This is not to bury Seattle. Two games is a small margin, and there are nearly four months of baseball left to play. And the Mariners are a heavy favorite to pick up one of the two AL Wild Card spots. It looks very likely right now that their postseason drought will come to an end this fall.
But in the division, the math is not kind. And neither are the Astros.
** Matthew Leach ** is the National League executive editor for MLB.com.