PHOENIX -- As much as the Astros have tried to focus on what they're doing as the season draws to a close, they couldn't help but be captivated by the seesaw end of the Rangers-Angels game, which ended a few hours before the Astros took the field against the D-backs tonight at Chase Field.
Nearly every player sat at his locker in disbelief and watched the Angels rally for five runs in the ninth to stun the Rangers, 11-10, keeping the Astros' American League West title hopes alive, but also threatening their lead for the AL's last available Wild Card spot. The Astros need a win tonight to avoid falling into a tie with the Angels.
PHOENIX -- Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez was out of the starting lineup again on Saturday. He was out Friday after aggravating the left intercostal injury that kept him out for more than two weeks at the end of September on his game-ending throw Wednesday in Seattle.
Gomez is available to pinch-run and play defense, but Manager A.J. Hinch said said he's likely to play it safe.
PHOENIX -- The Astros hit four home runs in support of left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who recorded his 20th win, as Houston moved a step closer to its first postseason berth in 10 years with a 21-5 rout of the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field.
PHOENIX -- He started the All-Star Game for the American League, he was three times named the AL Pitcher of the Month, and on Friday night at Chase Field he became the seventh Astros pitcher -- and second lefty -- to win 20 games in a season. Is the Cy Young Award next?
Dallas Keuchel didn't want to hear of that after holding the D-backs to two runs and six hits in six innings in a 21-5 rout that pushed Houston a step closer to clinching a postseason spot. At 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA over 232 innings, Keuchel is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award whether he's ready to admit it or not.
Keuchel (17-7, 2.22 ERA) is tied for the American League lead in wins, ranks first in the AL in ERA and leads the Majors in ERA. Shortstop Correa enters Tuesday hitting .276 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 81 games. McCullers is 5-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 18 starts since being called up from Double-A Corpus Christi.
PHOENIX -- Don't expect Astros manager A.J. Hinch to take a dive into the pool at Chase Field if the Astros clinch a postseason spot this weekend.
Hinch, who went 89-123 in parts of two seasons (2009-10) with the D-backs in his first try as a Major League manager, returns to Arizona for the regular-season-ending series with a chance for his team to clinch its first playoff berth in 10 years.
'Never a fluke,' club has kept expectations high as AL Wild Card race gets crowded
By Richard Justice
Now it's about finishing the deal. The Houston Astros have come so far and surprised so many in this amazing season. So much youth and energy. Such a great ride. In the end, though, this final weekend of the regular season will define the previous six months.
Will the Astros be remembered as a team that defied every expectation in a magical run back to the postseason? Or will they be the group that hit a wall in September (11-16) and blinked when the lights were brightest?
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Gattis' feet producing unusual modern feat
Astros slugger 1st player since 1962 to notch at least 10 triples with no steals
By Spencer Fordin
Evan Gattis might not be fleet of foot, but he's working on a season for the ages.
Gattis, the Astros' 260-pound designated hitter, is the first Major League player in more than 50 years to hit more than 10 triples without stealing a base. Gattis, who delivered his 11th triple of the season on Wednesday, trails just two players in history who have had more triples without a stolen base.
By Andrew Erickson and Brian McTaggart
SEATTLE -- Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez, in the starting lineup for the first time in more than two weeks because of a pesky rib-cage muscle injury, caught a line drive off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth inning and fired a laser to first to double up the runner for a dramatic ending to a wild game.
While Gomez lay on the ground in disbelief, his teammates joyously spilled onto the field to celebrate a resilient 7-6 win over the Mariners on Wednesday night at Safeco Field that vaulted the Astros back into the second spot in the American League Wild Card race.
SEATTLE -- If the Astros are able to hold on and make the postseason, they could look back on Chris Carter's sixth-inning home run Wednesday night at Safeco Field as being the biggest hit of the season.
The red-hot Carter blasted a game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth off J.C. Ramirez, and the Astros scratched out another run to beat the Mariners, 7-6, and move back into the second Wild Card spot in the American League with only three games remaining.
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.
SEATTLE -- Tom Lawless, who managed the Astros for the final 24 games of last season on an interim basis to replace Bo Porter, was among a handful of Minor League staffers who were dismissed by the club.
Lawless had just finished his seventh season with the Astros, serving this year as a developmental specialist at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros are eliminating the position of developmental specialist as part of their offseason Minor League restructuring, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday. Jeff Murphy, a developmental specialist at Triple-A Fresno who was on the big league staff in 2013, was also dismissed, along with Class A Quad Cities developmental specialist Tim Garland, and others.
SEATTLE -- What really bothers veteran relief pitcher Pat Neshek is that he feels good on the mound. That's what makes the eighth inning Tuesday so hard for him to take. That's what makes the month of September so hard to swallow.
Neshek's troublesome month continued in a 6-4 loss to the Mariners, giving up a game-deciding, two-run single off the bat off Shawn O'Malley with two outs that dealt the Astros' playoff hopes a blow. For the first time since April 18, the Astros are on the outside, looking in at the postseason race.
SEATTLE -- One year ago on Tuesday, A.J. Hinch was hired to manage the Houston Astros. It was the day after the 92-loss 2014 season ended.
It was just 52 weeks ago, a mere 365 days. It, however, seems like light years ago in terms of where the Astros were and where they are -- especially in terms of how the hiring was viewed at the time, and the way Hinch is now viewed in his role as a big league manager.
SEATTLE -- The Astros lost starting third baseman Jed Lowrie in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Mariners with a sore left quad. Manager A.J. Hinch said he didn't like the way Lowrie was limping around on the field and pulled him out.
"I wanted to have a fresh body in there, so I went and just told him, 'Hey, we're going to get a fresh set of legs in there,'" Hinch said. "Obviously, [Jonathan Villar] came up with the big hit, but Jed just didn't look right to me. He's been battling a few symptoms here and there. I just had to take him out."
By Brian McTaggart and Andrew Erickson
SEATTLE -- Shawn O'Malley's two-out, two-run single off reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth inning broke a tie and lifted the Mariners to a 6-4 win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Safeco Field, dropping Houston out of the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
The Astros, who fell to 10-16 in September, are one-half game behind the red-hot Angels, who have won seven in a row. The Astros' AL West chances are slipping away. They trail the first-place Rangers by 2 1/2 games with four remaining.
SEATTLE -- Catcher Hank Conger returned to the Astros' lineup Tuesday in Seattle for the first time since Sept. 17. Conger has been dealing with a sore right shoulder, but he threw to the bases Monday at Safeco Field and told manager A.J. Hinch he was ready to go.
"Obviously, I tweaked the shoulder a little bit," Conger, who went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in Houston's 6-4 loss, said. "I know we're in the race, but at the same time, I want to make sure everything's 100 percent so that nothing gets re-aggravated. I threw to bases, felt good, felt 100 percent, so I'm pretty excited to get back in there today."
SEATTLE -- Through it all, Chris Carter's demeanor has never changed. Maybe that's why he's been able to persevere through a season in which everyone wanted him dumped and he wound up having his playing time slashed dramatically as he struggled to put the bat on the ball.
Carter has emerged from the ruins of a lost first five months of the season and is suddenly carrying the Astros' offense. He homered for a third consecutive game Monday night, breaking a tie with his 23rd homer of the season to lead the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field that put them within 1 1/2 games of Texas for the American League West lead.
By Brian McTaggart and Andrew Erickson
SEATTLE -- Red-hot slugger Chris Carter homered in his third consecutive game, breaking a tie with a solo shot in the seventh inning Monday night at Safeco Field to send the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Mariners and to within 1 1/2 games of the American League West lead.
SEATTLE -- At this point in the season, relief pitchers are going to be thrust into situations that might not be the most comfortable. Tired arms will be called upon to get key outs in big games, and there's no such thing as being unavailable.
Welcome to the final week of the season, when the Astros' bullpen will be tested like never before. The relievers came through in the clutch in Monday's 3-2 win over the Mariners, retiring all eight batters they faced to lock down a huge win.
In a world where rookies will always, always have to dress up in silly costumes during the month of September, one team will rise above the rest and claim their costumes as the silliest. Houston Astros Productions presents: Rookie Roast 2015: 2 Rookie 2 Roast.
Young club finding joy, not stress, as postseason push heat up
By Richard Justice
HOUSTON -- Stress? What stress? This isn't stress. This is the good stuff. The Houston Astros -- and the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels -- might remember this as the most fun they ever had in baseball.
"It's what you live for," Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis said. "It's awesome. It's unbelievable. Hey, we can do this. We're a good team. We've been beating people all year."