Astros' win sets up wild final day
PHOENIX -- The Astros' season will not come to an end Sunday. That much they ensured by winning for the sixth time in seven games, 6-2, behind two homers by Colby Rasmus and a strong pitching performance from Collin McHugh on Saturday night at Chase Field.
With the Angels rallying to beat the Rangers earlier Saturday, the Astros enter the final day of the regular season one game behind the first-place Rangers in the American League West and a game ahead of the Angels in the race for the AL's final Wild Card spot. Houston can not be eliminated on Sunday.
"We showed up tonight and took care of our business, which is all we could ask for in Game 161," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I'm proud of our guys. They did a really good job of staying focused from the beginning. It's a good win for us and certainly puts pressure on a lot of teams around us."
If the Rangers win on Sunday, they win the division, regardless of what the Astros do. But If the Astros win and the Rangers lose, they would then play a one-game tiebreaker to decide the AL West champ on Monday in Arlington, based on the Rangers winning the season series between the clubs (13-6). The loser of that game would travel to face the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, they would be tied for the final Wild Card spot and play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday at Minute Maid Park, based on the Astros winning the season series between the teams (10-9). The winner of that game would face the Yankees in the Wild Card Game.
The Astros are also only a game behind the Yankees. If Houston wins a Wild Card spot and finishes tied with New York, the AL Wild Card Game would be at Minute Maid Park, as the Astros won the season series, 4-3.
"We had our bumps in the road a little bit and we were issued a lot of challenges," Hinch said. "We've been resilient all year, and I know in September it's magnified and we've talked about it relentlessly, but every time this team has sort of been pushed around a little bit here in the year, we've answered with a nice run of games. And this has been no different. Obviously, the stakes are high. The attention has been immense. Our guys continue to be resilient and continue to show up and take care of business."
McHugh (19-7) capped a tremendous season on Saturday by holding the D-backs to six hits and one run in seven innings while striking out five batters, and he got enough support from the Astros' bats.
"Throws his cutter, curveball and just spots his fastball," D-backs manager Chip Hale said of McHugh. "Throws lots of cutters and breaking balls and does a good job with it. He had us off balance and we didn't make much hard contact. He's a 19-game winner, so it's impressive."
Carlos Correa's sac fly in the first provided an early lead against D-backs starter Jeremy Hellickson, and Rasmus and Jose Altuve added solo homers to make it 3-0 after five innings. After the D-backs cut the lead to 3-1 on an RBI single by Welington Castillo in the sixth, the Astros answered with a Jason Castro RBI double in the seventh, and Rasmus went deep again in a two-run eighth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
McHugh gets No. 19: McHugh won his career-high 19th game one day after Dallas Keuchel became the first Astros pitcher in 10 years to win 20. They are the first Astros duo to win at least 19 games each since 1999, when Mike Hampton went 22-4 and Jose Lima 21-10, and they give Houston a formidable 1-2 if they make the postseason.
"Every game down the stretch here is huge," McHugh said. "So, yeah, it was a last regular-season [game] for me, but all these games the last week felt like playoff games." More >
Rasmus sets career high: Rasmus, starting in center field for the second consecutive game in place of the injured Carlos Gomez, has three homers in two nights to give him a career-high 25. Before launching a pair on Saturday, he hit a two-run homer in Friday's series opener and has eight homers since the start of September.
"This is a good place to hit and a good backdrop," Rasmus said. "I was excited to come here. It's always been a fun place to hit, and we're taking advantage of it." More >
Missed opportunity: Trailing, 3-0, the D-backs looked to have a rally going in the sixth when A.J. Pollock doubled with one out. After McHugh struck out Paul Goldschmidt, back-to-back singles by Castillo and Jake Lamb scored one run, but Peter O'Brien grounded out to end the threat.
"We had a few chances, but not many. And every time it seemed like we did something, they'd come back the next inning and have a long inning keep us out there on defense," Hale said. "You've got to give them credit. They're really playing well. They're playing like a playoff team."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In eighth, Altuve was hit by a pitch on the left hand and was awarded first base. The D-backs challenged the call, but it was allowed to stand after a review, meaning there was not sufficient replay evidence to confirm or overturn it.
"There's a lot of good baseball being played by us. Everyone wants to talk about the previous 161, but the bottom line is tomorrow is the most important game of the year." -- Hinch
Astros: The Astros will call on Lance McCullers in their regular-season finale Sunday against the D-backs at 2:10 p.m. CT at Chase Field.
D-backs: Robbie Ray will get the start in the D-backs' season finale, which gets underway at 12:10 p.m. MST. Ray has allowed two earned runs over 12 innings in his last two starts.
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