The Astros would obviously love to win the AL West title and clinch a first-round bye. If they are able to win the division, they will likely earn the second seed in the American League. The Minnesota Twins already clinched the AL Central, but Houston has a better record than them. Meanwhile, either the Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays, whichever team wins the AL East, will earn the No. 1 seed.
So what is the Astros' nightmare seeding scenario? Let's take a look.
Astros' nightmare seeding scenario
The American League Wild Card race is competitive, with four teams battling for three spots.
Houston currently holds the No. 3 spot in the wild card race, trailing the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays hold a sizable advantage for the first seed and already clinched a playoff berth, but Toronto is just a half-game in front of Houston. Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners sit just a half-game behind the Astros for the final AL Wild Card position.
In the AL West, Houston is a half-game back of the Texas Rangers.
As things stand right now, the Astros have a legitimate opportunity to win the division, earn a wild card spot, or miss the playoffs. All three outcomes are feasible. It goes without saying, but the real nightmare would be missing the postseason altogether. For the purpose of this article, this will be a worst scenario if the Astros clinch a playoff berth.
The reality of the American League playoff situation is that earning the No. 6 seed, or final AL Wild Card spot, would not be all that bad. Yes, the No. 6 seed will need to play on the road. However, their opponent would most likely be the Minnesota Twins, a team that won the worst division in baseball in the AL Central.
The Twins should not be taken for granted, but they may be the most favorable matchup in the first round. Houston wouldn't mind being the No. 6 seed this season.
Additionally, winning the division would be another preferred outcome as previously mentioned. And locking up the top AL Wild Card spot is already out of the question. So that leaves the No. 5 seed, or second AL Wild Card position.
The Astros' nightmare seeding position would be to clinch the No. 5 seed in the American League. Not only would they not get home field advantage, but Houston would need to battle a dangerous Tampa Bay Rays or Baltimore Orioles ball club, depending on the results of the AL East.
Houston's nightmare matchup
The Orioles are a young team playing with confidence. They would be the real nightmare matchup for Houston. Odds are, the Astros will need to play them at some point in the playoffs, even if Baltimore wins their division.
The Rays would be Houston's Wild Card Round nightmare matchup though. Despite Tampa Bay's injury concerns, they still feature a balanced roster capable of making serious noise. The Rays' pitching prowess out of the bullpen is difficult enough, and their loaded lineup is talented to say the least.
Reason for concern?
The Astros have not been quite as dominant in 2023 as compared to previous seasons. Nevertheless, this is still a good team. As long as they book their ticket to the playoffs, whether it be via the division or wild card, Houston is going to have a chance to play quality October baseball.
The Astros' primary advantage over other teams is their experience. They have been a consistent playoff contender since 2017. Other teams, such as the Orioles and Mariners, have many young players on the roster who lack much in the way of playoff experience. It will be interesting to see how those teams fare under the bright lights.
In the end, there isn't too much reason for concern when it comes to the Astros. Yes, their journey has been different in 2023, but they will remain confident. Justin Verlander is back and ready to lead the rotation, while Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker will not get intimidated by the postseason.
The Astros will be an enticing team to follow down the stretch.