The Houston Astros’ special season won’t end with game 162. Whether they’ll head into next week as a playoff team still remains to be seen.
However, the easiest way for the visiting Astros to reach the postseason for the first time in 10 years is to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Collin McHugh pitched seven strong innings to earn his 19th victory and Colby Rasmus homered twice as Houston (86-75) won for the sixth time in seven games, 6-2 on Saturday.
Heading into the final scheduled regular-season game, the Astros have a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the AL’s second wild-card spot. They are also one back of the New York Yankees for the first wild-card position and one behind playoff-bound Texas for first place in the West.
"To be in this position at the end of the year is what you play for, what makes it fun," catcher Jason Castro told MLB’s official website. "It’s one of the most exciting seasons of my career.
"I’m happy about it, but we’re not done. We’re still hungry and we still have a lot left to prove."
Should the Astros lose and the Angels beat Texas on Sunday, Houston and Los Angeles would meet in a one-game tiebreaker to determine which club gets the final wild-card spot. A Houston victory and a Texas loss would leave those teams to square off in a tiebreaker where the winner takes the division crown and the loser gets a wild-card spot.
”Nothing can happen to us negatively if we win (Sunday),” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”We’ll be playing for the division or be in the wild card.”
Houston last reached the postseason in 2005 when it was swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
"You’ve got to give them credit. They’re really playing well," Arizona manager Chip Hale said of the Astros. "They’re playing like a playoff team."
Colby Rasmus hasn’t been to the playoffs since he went 4 for 9 with three doubles for St. Louis in the 2009 division series. He’s homered three times in two games to record a career-high 25, and is 7 for 12 with six RBIs in the last three.
The Astros will turn to rookie Lance McCullers (6-7, 3.21 ERA), who went 0-4 with a 4.70 ERA during a seven-start stretch before yielding two runs and striking out seven over six-plus innings in a 3-2 win at Seattle on Monday. Making his first appearance against the Diamondbacks (78-83), the right-hander has not posted back-to-back wins in any of his 21 career starts this season.
Arizona hands the ball to Robbie Ray (5-12, 3.50), who has a 2.51 ERA while going 2-2 in his last six starts. He allowed two earned runs in six innings of a 4-3, 11-inning win over Colorado on Tuesday.
The left-hander yielded four runs, seven hits and walked three in five innings of a 4-1 loss at Houston on Aug. 2.
Batting a career-best .319 and looking to finish in the top 5 among NL hitters, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is 7 for 16 with a homer in the last five games.
It’s uncertain if Houston’s Carlos Gomez will be out of the lineup for a third consecutive game with sore ribs. Hinch said Gomez could be available to pinch-hit or play in the field.