Fri, 08 Dec 2023

Astros have high hopes heading into finale vs. D-backs

Field Level Media
02 Oct 2023, 00:05 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Sunday's series finale between the Houston Astros and host Arizona Diamondbacks will not have a postseason berth on the line.

That's because both teams earned a playoff spot Saturday; however, both clubs have reason to be competitive on Sunday in Phoenix.

Houston (89-72) clinched at least a wild-card spot with Saturday's 1-0 win over Arizona (84-77).

The Astros still have a shot to win the American League West championship with a victory over the Diamondbacks and a loss by the Texas Rangers at the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

If that happens, the Astros and Rangers would have identical 90-72 records and Houston would own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series (nine games to four).

The AL West champion will get the No. 2 seed and secure a first-round bye. The division runner-up has to play an extra postseason round.

"We came to play, and we've got action tomorrow (Sunday)," Houston manager Dusty Baker said. "That (Saturday) was a huge game for us, a huge game ... (The Diamondbacks) accomplished their goal of getting into the playoffs. We accomplished part of it."

Arizona clinched a wild-card spot in the National League playoffs after the Cincinnati Reds lost 15-6 at the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. That occurred about 30 minutes before the Diamondbacks' loss to the Astros.

Arizona is in the postseason two years after losing 110 games. The Diamondbacks are the third team in major-league history to go from a 110-plus-loss season to a playoff berth in a three-season span, joining this year's Baltimore Orioles and the 2013-15 Astros.

Arizona will play its first postseason game since 2017 -- when manager Torey Lovullo was in his first year -- on Tuesday at either the Philadelphia Phillies or Milwaukee Brewers.

Who they will play depends on whether the Diamondbacks finish second or third in the wild-card standings.

Arizona's roller coaster of a season included being tied for the NL West lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the All-Star break. They went through a 10-26 stretch in July and August before winning 11 of 13 games to get back into the postseason picture.

"Looking back, I'm glad that we didn't start to do any big knee-jerk reactions to rewrite how we're going to win," said first baseman Christian Walker, who leads the Diamondbacks with 33 home runs and 103 RBIs. "I think we're a better team now because of that; we've learned how to endure a tough struggle and not panic and not freak out."

Corbin Carroll is a front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, batting .285 with 25 home runs, 76 RBIs and 54 stolen bases.

The Astros, defending World Series champions, are in the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.

Houston will turn to right-hander Cristian Javier (9-5, 4.73 ERA) on Sunday against Arizona left-hander Kyle Nelson (7-3, 3.88).

Javier is 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in four career games (two starts) against the Diamondbacks.

Nelson pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning last season in his lone career appearance against the Astros.

--Field Level Media

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