Over the last decade and beyond, there was no pressure to finish with the best record in baseball. Best record in your division, sure, but the best record in baseball? Nope.
Well, that has changed.
“The All-Star game is (no longer) about home-field advantage (in the World Series),” Astros president Reid Ryan said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Right now, it’s us and the Dodgers that are over the 50-win mark.”
Indeed, the Astros (53-26) have a 12.5 game lead over the Angels (42-40) in the AL West entering play June 29. They also outpace the other AL division leaders – the Yankees (42-34) and Indians (41-36) – by a mile. At this rate, Houston will cruise to home-field advantage in the AL playoffs.
But home-field advantage, should they advance to the World Series, is very much up for grabs. That’s because the Dodgers (52-28), Diamondbacks (50-29) and Nationals (47-31) are hot on the Astros’ heals.
“There’s a real – not just for us, but for our league – pressure to go out and try to have that best record so that you can secure that home-field advantage (throughout the playoffs),” Ryan said. “So we’re going to try to keep the pressure on.”
The Astros, who have won seven of nine, host Oakland (35-43) on Thursday at 2:10 p.m. ET before a three-game home series with the Yankees.
Houston has been solid at home – 24-17 – but is a majors-best 29-9 on the road. In fact, Houston is the only team in the majors with single-digit road losses and one of just three AL teams with fewer than 20 road losses.
The Astros are vying for their second playoff appearance in three seasons.