The Astros have been the best team in MLB when their top three pitchers start but they're average in every other game.

MLB wrap: Astros look set for playoffs but still desperately need a starter

The Astros reminded everyone over their last two games why they are the best team in the American League West.

Houston dropped the Angels 6-2 on the road Thursday to win its second straight game over Los Angeles, forcing a split in a four-game series.

The Astros outscored L.A., 17-4, in those two games.

This game is important for a couple of reasons. For one, the Astros got a much needed win when the A's lost, stretching their lead to 5 1/2 games in the West. Secondly, it made a point both for the good and bad. The Astros are the best team in MLB when their top three pitchers (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley) are on the mound, but they also need desperate help at the back end of their rotation.

Houston is 42-19 (.688 winning percentage) when those three are on the bump this year (Miley got the win Thursday). That would be the best winning percentage in MLB. Without them, however, it is 19-19. That could be good enough to earn a wild-card spot in the National League, but in the AL, it absolutely is not. So, Houston's No. 1 priority will be going after a pitcher at the deadline.

Who have the Astros been linked to? Just about everyone from Noah Syndergaard to Robbie Ray to Matthew Boyd to Madison Bumgarner. They could also be eyeing some under-the-radar players like Caleb Smith of the Marlins.

The Astros have to add and the last 20 games are a perfect example why. Houston is 11-2 with its top three on the mound, it's 2-5 in all others. In that time, the Athletics have cut significantly into Houston's lead atop the division. In this series against the Angels, the Astros went 0-2 with all other pitchers and 2-0 with Cole and Miley.

Houston is perfectly fine going into the playoffs with three good starters. It can win a series with that, but if the team wants to keep its lead in the division, it has to add a starter for the stretch run.

Studs of the Night

Stephen Strasburg was good on the mound in Washington's 13-4 win over the Braves as he tossed 5 1/3 innings while allowing three earned runs, but that's not why he's here. He went 3 for 3 at the plate with a three-run homer and five RBIs. That would get him on here as a hitter, alone.

Chris Sale struck out 12 in six scoreless innings while allowing two hits in a 5-0 Red Sox win over the Blue Jays.

Dud of the Night

Paul Goldschmidt went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts but the Cardinals did come away with a 7-4 win over the Reds.


Lorenzo Cain made this catch look remarkably easy.

What's Next

Athletics (55-42) at Twins (59-36), 8:10 p.m. ET — This is an important game for several reasons. The Indians are charging hard at the Twins in the AL Central and the Athletics are not only trying to keep pace with the Astros, but they are also in the middle of a heated wild-card race. Every single game matters from here on out.


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