HOUSTON -- The final week of the regular season presents some unique, but welcomed, challenges for Astros manager A.J. Hinch, whose team clinched the American League West more than a week ago and is trying to catch Cleveland for the best record in the AL.• Gear up for the postseasonThe
HOUSTON -- The final week of the regular season presents some unique, but welcomed, challenges for Astros manager A.J. Hinch, whose team clinched the American League West more than a week ago and is trying to catch Cleveland for the best record in the AL.
• Gear up for the postseason
The Astros close the regular season with four games against the Red Sox -- the same team they're likely to face in the AL Division Series. If the Red Sox have clinched the division and the Astros are locked into the No. 2 seed prior to heading to Boston, that series could resemble a pillow fight with neither team wanting to show their cards.
Houston entered play Monday four games ahead of the Red Sox for the No. 2 seed in the AL and 2 1/2 games behind the Indians for the No. 1 seed.
"Exposing guys to different matchups and things like that is a little tricky, but you can overthink that, too," Hinch said. "You really just need to play the games and compete and let whatever happens happen, and not get too caught up in that stuff. We'll address how we're going to attack the Boston series as we get closer to it."
Dallas Keuchel, Tuesday's scheduled starter for the Astros, would be lined up to face the Red Sox in Sunday's regular-season finale, but it's unlikely the Astros would pitch him just days before a possible playoff rematch. Conversely, lefty Chris Sale is scheduled to start for Boston on Tuesday, putting him in line to pitch Sunday. That's also unlikely.
Hinch did say Brad Peacock would start Thursday's series opener at Fenway Park, followed by Charlie Morton on Friday. Both are candidates for the playoff rotation.
Lance McCullers, who bounced back well health-wise from his start Sunday in Houston, will start on Saturday or Sunday as the Astros try to get him stretched out after missing more than two weeks with arm fatigue. Collin McHugh is another candidate to start one of the final two games of the regular season.
"Even though I know it's only a week and seven games, there's still a lot that we have to sort through before we decide what starters are going to go, what kind of matchups we're going to go with," Hinch said. "To be honest with you, until things are solidified on all fronts, we're not going to spend a ton of time exhausting the what-ifs."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.