Astros: Bon voyage, playoffs???
Houston loses a big one to the Mariners
All teams can have a bad game. But when that bad game comes when you’re battling for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, the term “bad” is an understatement. This is the type of game the Astros had against the Mariners on Wednesday. By the time all nine Mariners had batted once, A.J. Hinch decided he’d had enough. The Astros manager headed to the mound in a fury and removed his starter from behind the mound. That was it for him — the last 23 outs would belong to his bullpen.
Fister’s Houston finale
I think it’s safe to say that Doug Fister’s time in Houston is at a close. His steady and consistent summer was finalized in an end-of-the-season catastrophe, as the Astros took a hard-hitting loss to the Mariners, 12-4. Minute Maid Park was the backdrop to a Fister pitching fumble that will probably be his last showing in an Astros uniform. As he enters free agency, his final game as an Astro recorded four outs, the lowest number in any of the almost 200 major league starts of his career. His limited time behind the mound in this game gave way to five runs on five hits and a walk. With the Astros’ chances of making the playoffs hanging on a string, that was enough to take him out of the game.
Each of Fister’s final seven starts ended with a loss, where the veteran right-hander gave up 32 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings, equaling an embarrassing 10.54 ERA. Fister’s current contract is worth $7 million plus incentivized bonuses. What did the Astros get for that? A 4.64 ERA and 180 1/3 innings over 32 starts. Through 25 starts, he had a 3.59 ERA. Sounds like a real waste of money, huh?
Nineteen of the 24 home runs Fister allowed were due to his inability to be effective against left-handed hitters. Six of the first seven in the Mariners’ lineup Wednesday batted from the left side, and because of that, Fister was unable to make any headway. Robinson Cano started the Mariners’ scoring streak with a three-run, opposite field discharge in the first inning, pounding the final nail in the coffin in the game as an Astros assassin.
Here and now
This loss to the Mariners has set a couple of things in motion. First, it makes it so the Astros can only hope to match their season record from last year of 86 wins. Their record currently stands at 83-76 – sweeping these last few games of the regular season would have put them in a position to at least beat their 2015 record. Unfortunately, that was not the way the fates would have it.
Now, as the Astros have fumbled in this series against the Mariners, postseason opportunities have opened up wide. Any Astros loss or Baltimore Orioles win will mathematically eliminate the Astros from playoff contention. The O’s play the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. From there, they will close their regular-season play at Yankee Stadium this weekend. You can believe all eyes will be on those three games to see who will be the final wild card spot-holder.
Brad Peacock will start for the Astros in Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels. Collin McHugh will likely be the Astros’ pitcher on Saturday, as confirmed by manager A.J. Hinch. Sunday is still up in the air.
Of Cano’s career-high 36 home runs this season, nine came in 19 games against the Astros. The seven-time All-Star second baseman knocked seven home runs out of the park in 10 games at Minute Maid Park. The Astros won’t see him until opening day in 2017. Needless to say, they aren’t complaining about him not being around.
Fister and Kevin Chapman put the Astros in a 7-0, the Astros worked hard to fill in the cracks against James Paxton. George Springer knocked one out in the third, his career-high 29th of the season. Jake Marisnick and Alex Bregman drove in a run apiece with hits in the fifth. From there, Evan Gattis got the Mariners’ lead to three with a solo homer against Nick Vincent to lead off the sixth inning. With the score at 7-4, the Astros brought the tying run to the plate three batters later but didn’t capitalize. From there, the Mariners took their lead back up to five, with two runs in the seventh against the combination of James Hoyt and Will Harris. From there, the Mariners took the game out of reach. Kyle Seager nailed a three-run homer in the eighth, and the rest was history.
The last of the Astros’ regular season begins on Friday. One loss can send them home for good. All of the Astros’ faithful will be watching to see if they can save their playoff chances and clinch the last wild card spot.