HOUSTON — With one more loss on what initially appeared to be a fortuitously scheduled and perfectly timed homestand, the Astros inched closer to elimination from the postseason and the realization of a golden opportunity squandered.
With their 4-3, extra-inning setback, the Astros (82-75) dropped to 1-4 on their seven-game homestand against the Angels and Mariners (83-73), who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Astros in the American League wild-card race and two games behind the idle Orioles (85-71) for the second available slot. Houston capped a 5-1 road trip through Seattle and Oakland before returning home with high hopes.
“Obviously, we came off of a really hot road trip feeling pretty good,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We've played extra innings games, we've played really close games, and they haven't gone our way. That's the way the games go sometimes. It's not as if we're out there not giving our best or not coming prepared — we're just not executing at the most critical times. But we're going to keep fighting these last five games and see where it takes us, but certainly, it's disappointing.”
Right-hander Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.50 ERA) will make his third start of the season and fourth of his career against Seattle on Tuesday. He has allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings against Seattle in 2016, going 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA. Fiers is 1-0 with a 4.20 ERA in his career against them.
Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (11-6, 3.61 ERA) will make his 24th start of the season on Tuesday night. Hernandez did not factor in the decision in his previous outing despite tossing seven shutout innings on Sept. 21 against Toronto.
Hernandez is 3-4 with a 4.07 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros including five starts at Minute Maid Park where he has posted a 2-2 record and 5.40 ERA. In his lone start against Houston this season, Hernandez took the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings on Sept. 16.
Unlike the Astros, who dropped 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles with five to play, the Mariners remain optimistic that a series win in Houston and a season-ending homestand against the Athletics just might yield their first postseason berth since 2001.
“We've got a chance,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That's what we've been playing for and the guys, you can feel it, they really believe. Big game (Tuesday) night. We've got to keep taking care of business here and hopefully get home for the weekend and still have a chance there. I've been saying it for a month and a half, it's a game at a time and all that other good stuff. These guys believe it. They know what's on the line every night. We've got to have a little bit better at-bats. That's probably the most disappointing thing tonight, the strikeout number (16). We've got to cut that down.”