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Ramirez aims to keep Seattle in WC chase

Special to MLB.com

Playing their final homestand of the season, the Astros could really give their fans something to cheer about -- possibly as early as Saturday -- as Houston is inching closer to the American League West Division title.

So close, in fact, that the Astros could clinch the division title as soon as Saturday, as their magic number is two games. The Astros, who play at 12:05 p.m. CT., need to win and the Angels to lose to Texas (6:07 p.m. PT) in order to win the division title.

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Playing their final homestand of the season, the Astros could really give their fans something to cheer about -- possibly as early as Saturday -- as Houston is inching closer to the American League West Division title.

So close, in fact, that the Astros could clinch the division title as soon as Saturday, as their magic number is two games. The Astros, who play at 12:05 p.m. CT., need to win and the Angels to lose to Texas (6:07 p.m. PT) in order to win the division title.

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"It's trending to where it looks like it's going to be a fun homestand in front of our fans," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's an opportunity you set out for in the beginning of spring training.

"To close out a division is hard. It's hard doing what we're doing. We have an opportunity here, we got games in front of us. We got to focus on getting as many wins. If we win three times nobody can do anything to us."

Saturday's game matches left-hander Dallas Keuchel (12-4, 3.03 ERA) opposing right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.25 ERA). Keuchel is 2-0 this season against the Mariners.

The Mariners remain 3 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot.

Ramirez has helped solidify the Mariners' injury-riddled rotation since his acquisition from the Rays for right-hander Steve Cishek on July 28. Saturday will be Ramirez's ninth start for Seattle. He's 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA over his last six starts.

"He's in a good spot here," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I like what I've seen. When you look at him out there, he's not very imposing and he's not going to blow up a radar gun with how hard he throws. But he's very effective."

Things to know about this game

• The Astros swept the Mariners two weeks ago in Seattle. Keuchel won the series opener and Justin Verlander won the second game in his Astros debut.

• The Mariners, with Ben Gamel (114 starts), Guillermo Heredia (96 starts) and Mitch Haniger (81 starts), are one of three teams in Major League history since 1913 to have three rookies make 80-plus starts in the outfield.

• Houston has not won its division since winning the National League Central in 2001. The club has advanced to postseason three times since, all by the wild card (2004, '05, 2015).

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Miami Marlins, Houston Astros