The Houston Astros are on the verge of clinching their fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
If the Astros beat the host Seattle Mariners in the finale of a three-game series Wednesday afternoon and the Los Angeles Angels lose to the San Diego Padres, Houston would capture second place in the American League West and a spot in the expanded postseason in this pandemic-shortened season.
The Astros (28-27) have a 3 1/2-game lead over the Angels (25-31) and a four-game edge on the Mariners (24-31) with five games left.
“We’ve just got to take care of our own business,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
The rebuilding Mariners also have a slim shot at an AL wild-card berth, but they are four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays (28-27) for the last playoff position. While the Mariners have already lost the tiebreaker against the Astros by virtue of the season series between the teams, they hold the tiebreaker against the Blue Jays based on their record in their past 20 division games.
“We’ve put some nice streaks together, and everybody got excited that we had a chance to make a run at the playoffs,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Certainly we felt it. That’s a good thing for players to go through that and experience that.
“But understanding where we are as an organization, in our plan and our development, it’s really important these games are meaningful and players are getting better. That was the whole plan all year, to continue to get better, and I believe we have.”
The Mariners were forced to play five “home” games on the road last week in San Francisco and San Diego due to hazardous air conditions because of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. They also had a three-game series Sept. 1-3 at home against Oakland postponed by a positive COVID-19 test in the Athletics organization. The A’s and Mariners played a makeup doubleheader last week in Seattle on what was supposed to be an off day, and the Mariners will play the last game of that series as the “home” team in Oakland.
That’s six lost home games for the Mariners, who are 13-10 at T-Mobile Park this season.
After the Mariners took the series opener 6-1 Monday, the Astros rebounded with a 6-1 victory Tuesday, with Martin Maldonado and Michael Brantley hitting home runs in a five-run sixth that broke a 1-1 tie.
The Astros are scheduled to send right-hander Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) to the mound in the Wednesday matinee. In 15 career appearances against Seattle, including 13 starts, Greinke is 7-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He faced the Mariners once earlier this season, taking a no-decision in a 7-6 loss in Houston on July 26, when he allowed three runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings.
The Mariners will counter with left-hander Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA). Margevicius has pitched twice against the Astros this season, a scoreless inning of relief on July 27 and a six-inning start on Aug. 15 in Houston. Margevicius allowed two runs on four hits in the latter game, but a solo homer by Yuli Gurriel proved to be the deciding run in a 2-1 Astros victory.
–Field Level Media