The Houston Astros enter their final series of the season with a 1.5-game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the American League wild-card race after defeating them 8-3 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers held their own with a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels to maintain a 2.5 game lead over the Astros in the AL West title fight.
The three teams, which have been neck-and-neck for supremacy in MLB’s most competitive division for more than a month, will enter the final series of the season with the division title still on the line. The Rangers will face the Mariners in a four-game series in Seattle, while the Astros face an Arizona Diamondbacks team still fighting its own battle in the National League wild-card race.
Astros: 87-72, 2.5GB
Mariners: 85-73, 4.0 GB
Rays: 97-62, +10.0 games
Blue Jays: 87-71 +0.5 games
Mariners: 85-73, 1.5 GB
The division tiebreakers form a perfect triangle. The Mariners have the advantage over the Astros with a 9-4 record, the Astros have the advantage over the Rangers with a 9-4 record, and the Rangers have the advantage over the Mariners thanks to their 8-1 record.
Because of this tiebreaker and the four-game gap between the Rangers and Mariners, there is only one scenario left in which Seattle wins the West. That would require a four-game sweep against the Rangers, with the Astros winning two, and only two, games against the D-Backs.
In that case, the Mariners would win a three-team tiebreaker.
The Astros’ victory over the Mariners was difficult thanks to Hector Neris. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The Mariners could have moved into playoff position with a win on Wednesday and at times appeared tantalizingly close. JP Crawford led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to take a 1-0 lead, which the Astros lost in a four-run fourth inning on home runs by Yordan Álvarez and Mauricio Dubon.
The Mariners cut the lead to one on a bases-loaded single by Eugenio Suarez in the bottom of the fourth, but the Astros finished the game with more points in the seventh.
The game’s most bizarre moment, however, came in the bottom of the sixth when Astros reliever Hector Neris picked off Rodríguez and then aggressively tackled the young outfielder. Rodríguez didn’t like the treatment and soon the two were led away from each other while the dugouts and bullpens were cleared.
It was an odd moment in a series that had already seen a baseball thrown from the stands at Mariners pitcher George Kirby.
On the Rangers’ side, Texas scored early against the Angels while starting pitcher Dane Dunning pitched seven scoreless innings. Aroldis Chapman and José Leclerc combined to complete the shutout, so Texas would only need to win two of four games against the Mariners to seal the division, even if the Astros beat the D-Backs.