A blowout loss once again left the Houston Astros‘ with a magic number of one, after their Wednesday contest. This number remained the same as the second place Seattle Mariners eliminated the Oakland A’s from postseason contention hours later.
The Mariners now sit 3.5 games behind the Astros in the American League West and a half game back from the second Wild Card spot, as they will have Thursday off. They will look to continue their win streak against the Los Angeles Angels, who won’t be sending Shohei Ohtani to the mound in their upcoming series.
The Astros still have four games left; one with the Tampa Bay Rays, who have locked the No.1 seed, and then a three-game set at home with the A’s. Oakland has nothing else worth playing for, as their deadline acquisitions weren’t enough to push them over the edge.
With that in mind, the Astros can still clinch on Thursday against the Rays, who send former Houston hurler Collin McHugh to the hill.
Collin McHugh will be the opener for the Rays on Thursday, as the ball club has relied on their bullpen to work late into series. Houston sends Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound, who could be without Martin Maldonado after the catcher sustained a shoulder injury laying out for a foul ball.
After Thursday, McCullers will have faced McHugh, Dallas Keuchel and Gerrit Cole all in the same season. But as McHugh makes his first start as a visitor (53rd start) at Minute Maid Park, the right-hander could likely not exceed two innings, as he hasn’t since July 4.
The right-hander has opened six games this season, holding opponents to a .139 batting average. McHugh has also dominated the the first time through the order, minimizing hitters to a .139/.162/.139 slash line with zero extra-base hits.
Needless to say, McHugh has been dealing in the opener role and out in relief this season. Right-handed hitters seem to hit the McHugh better, as righties have a .613 OPS versus a .429 OPS for lefties.
The Astros have yet to face McHugh this season, and with a “RLRL” at the top of order, it would behoove manager Dusty Baker to stack up on right-handed bats on Thursday night at 6:10 p.m.
General manager James Click helped create what the Rays are today, but he can also help try stop it. The Astros only need one win to seal the AL West, but their magic number to seal home-field advantage in the ALDS remains at two with the Chicago White Sox winning on Wednesday.