MLB postseason picture: Astros top Red Sox in seventh straight win to pad AL West lead

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September is upon us, which means every race in Major League Baseball is headed for the home stretch. Every game matters more than ever to the teams competing for a postseason spot. That’s why every night between now and the end of the regular season we’ll bring you an updated look at the MLB postseason picture.

The Boston Red Sox have reigned as MLB’s top team for months now, but the surging Houston Astros might have something to say after topping the Sox 5-3 to win the series in Boston.

The Astros maintaining their AL West lead over the Oakland Athletics with their seventh straight win headlined a full Saturday of MLB divisional race action, including a key win for the Atlanta Braves and the usual reign of chaos between the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks over in the NL West.

The Astros are again looking like the team that dominated in the regular season and won the World Series last year. After a minor stumble following the All-Star break, the Astros have now won 14 of their last 17 with series wins over the Athletics, Mariners and now, Red Sox.

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman (2) celebrates his solo home run with Carlos Correa (1) during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox. (AP Photo)
Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman (2) celebrates his solo home run with Carlos Correa (1) during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox. (AP Photo)

Attacking Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez early for five runs in 3 1/3 innings, the Astros held onto their early lead with a solid effort from both Charlie Morton and the bullpen. Alex Bregman also became the youngest player to record a 30-homer season at 24 years old.

The Astros probably aren’t catching Boston for the best record in baseball even if they were to complete the sweep on Sunday, but Houston fans would probably take a team operating at its full potential heading into the postseason over an optimal position in the standings.

THE STATE OF MLB’S RACES

• NL Central: The Chicago Cubs dropped both ends of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, losing  10-3 and 6-5 to knock their down to just 2.5 ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. The St. Louis Cardinals also loom at five games back following a 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

• NL West: The Colorado Rockies bought back some breathing room over the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 4-2 win on Saturday and are now 1.5 games ahead of LA, plus 2.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks.

• NL East: The Atlanta Braves moved to 3.5 games ahead of the Phillies thanks to an extra-inning 5-3 win over the D-backs and Philadelphia’s loss to the Mets.

• NL Wild Card: The Milwaukee Brewers topped the San Francisco Giants 4-3 to maintain their 2.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for the top wild card spot. The Cardinals are still fending off a loaded field, including the Dodgers (1 game back), the D-backs (2 games back) and the Phillies (3.5 games back).

• AL Central: Not that they needed it, but the Cleveland Indians moved yet another game ahead of the Twins with a win over the Blue Jays and the Twins’ loss to the Royals. The Tribe is now 16.5 games ahead of Minnesota.

• AL West: Both the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics prevailed Saturday to keep the Astros’ division lead at 3.5 games. The Astros won their seventh straight game with a 5-3 win over the Red Sox.

• AL East: The Boston Red Sox fell back to 7.5 games ahead of the Yankees but still have plenty of breathing room. The team with MLB’s top record dropped another game to the Astros while New York topped the Mariners 4-2.

• AL Wild Card: The Yankees and Athletics still hold the two wild card sports. The Mariners are the closest team to the two, but fell to 7.5 games back from the Athletics for the second spot. The Rays loom just a half-game behind at 8 back.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TOMORROW

Wild card games: Cardinals at Brewers, Athletics at Yankees

ALDS: AL Wild Card vs. Red Sox, Indians vs. Astros

NLDS: NL Wild Card vs. Cubs, Braves vs. Rockies

MAGIC NUMBER WATCH

Cleveland Indians: It was a big day for the Indians. Not only did they defeat the Blue Jays 9-8 in Toronto, the Twins were dominated and defeated by Jorge Lopez and the Royals. Those two positive results lowered Cleveland’s magic number in the AL Central to five.

ELIMINATION WATCH

The Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins were both eliminated from postseason contention thanks to their respective losses on Saturday. They have officially joined the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Tigers and Padres as postseason outsiders. The Reds are next in line to join them with an elimination number of three.

SUNDAY’S MUST-SEE GAME

The Mets are must-see TV in September? It’s true, but only because of one man. Ace and Cy Young award candidate Jacob deGrom will be on the hill for Sunday’s start against the postseason-contending Phillies. It’s a big game for the Phillies, who need a win badly after dropping Saturday’s game in New York. It won’t be easy. DeGrom enters with a league-best 1.68 ERA, and hasn’t allowed a run to Philadelphia in 18 innings this season.

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