Undeterred Astros in position to finish job
Houston can realize postseason goal in season's final weekend
SEATTLE -- There aren't any style points in baseball.
Winning ugly? That might have been a cute catchphrase for the Chicago White Sox back in 1983. But there's nothing ugly about winning. That's something the youthful Houston Astros are learning in their effort to make sure they don't turn into pumpkins.
Some wins may be prettier than others, but all wins are created equal when it comes time to figure out who is advancing to the postseason.
So it was with a feeling of accomplishment that the Astros were able to pull out a 7-6 victory against the Mariners at Safeco Field on Wednesday night and put themselves back into position to control their own destiny in their bid to wash away the sour taste of 416 losses over the past four seasons by claiming an American League Wild Card spot.
"It was exciting," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "Maybe a little ugly, but we needed it. Getting out of here with a series win feels good. We needed a few breaks to go our way."
And they did. Think about it: Houston committed four errors in a game for the first time this season, including the first two-error game of rookie shortstop Carlos Correa's career, and only the fourth multierror game by an Astros player this season.
It was another struggle for lefty Scott Kazmir, the late-July reinforcement acquired from Oakland who has only two wins in his 13 starts for Houston and was unable to get through the fifth inning for the fourth time in his past six starts.
Chris Carter had a miscue when he was called out after coming off the bag sliding into third on a Jason Castro single with none out in the fifth. Carter, however, more than atoned for that with a game-tying three-run home run in the sixth.
There was no groaning in the visitors' clubhouse at Safeco Field. The Astros did, after all, take two of three from the Mariners, only the third road series they have won in the past 3 1/2 months, and they have now won seven of their past 11 games to reignite their postseason ambitions.
"With the calendar days peeling off, you want to control your destiny," Hinch said. "We know we are playing out West, so we know going into the game what has happened to the teams before us [in the standings] and behind us."
The Astros will have an off-day on Thursday before they face the D-backs in Arizona in a three-game series to end the regular season. They are in control of their own destiny after spending the previous 24 hours on the outside of the postseason race for the first time since April 18.
If the Astros don't lose another regular-season game, they will be postseason-bound for the first time in 10 years. If they sweep the D-backs and the Angels sweep their four-game series at Texas this weekend, the two teams would be tied at the end of 162 games and they would have to meet in a tiebreaking 163rd game for the second Wild Card spot on Monday, and it would be in Houston because the Astros won the season series against the Angels, 10-9.
At the other extreme, if the Angels are swept by the Rangers, the Astros would advance to the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, most likely against the Yankees, even if they don't win another regular-season game.
Not that Hinch is looking for any help from the Rangers this weekend.
"I'm an Astro fan," Hinch said. "We'll take care of ourselves."
Truth be told, the Astros have done a pretty good job of taking care of themselves all season. Most of baseball might have been waiting for the Astros to fold, but they haven't.
Oh, the month of September did present some challenges. Houston only won 11 of 27 games, the only losing month the club has had this season, and after ending the month of August with a 3.32 ERA that ranked fourth best in the big leagues, it had a 4.88 ERA in September. The Astros, however, did not disappear down the stretch.
"We've had to be resilient the whole season," said Hinch. "We have been questioned all year. I didn't doubt our character coming into [the Mariners] series and I don't doubt it now."
And now it comes down to a three-game visit to Arizona, where Houston will try to clinch its postseason spot in Interleague games with National League rules, which could limit what designated hitter Evan Gattis, the Astros' leading home run hitter, can do.
Not that the Astros are complaining.
"We had to play another NL series at some point," said Hinch. "We've done OK [in Interleague play]."
Yes, Houston has played well against the NL. The Astros have won 14 of 17 games against NL West teams, including two of three against the D-backs at Minute Maid Park on July 31-Aug. 2.
"It's been fun," Hinch said.
If things go according to plan, it is about to get more fun for the 2015 Astros.