It’s been chic, at times even appropriate, to call the Houston Astros cheaters in recent years. Never before had they earned the title of chokers.
But this September is starting to look a lot different from the past decade.
The Astros’ grip on a sixth consecutive full-season American League West title greatly weakened in the past 10 days and now, they are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for just the second time in the past nine years.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, if only the reason for their predicament wasn’t so embarrassing: The 102-loss Kansas City Royals.
Houston dropped five of six games to K.C. over the past two weekends, a span that saw the Astros’ one-game West lead turn into a 2 1/2-game advantage for the Texas Rangers. The Astros also slid two spots in USA TODAY Sports’ power rankings.
Thankfully for the Astros, the Rangers handled another bit of their dirty work, sweeping the Seattle Mariners to keep Houston’s tenuous hold on a playoff spot. Ostensibly, the Astros could have buried the Mariners by taking care of business against abysmal Kansas City; instead, they were swept.
Now, however, it’s all on Houston, which heads to Seattle for a crucial three-game series beginning Monday.
A look at this week’s rankings:
6. Texas Rangers (+3)
9. Houston Astros (-4)
10. Seattle Mariners (-)
29. Kansas City Royals (–)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB power rankings: Houston Astros in September collapse