The Houston Astros are on the verge of clinching the American League West when they host the Seattle Mariners on Saturday for the middle contest of their three-game series. Houston posted a 5-2 victory in Friday’s opener and arrives to the ballpark with a magic number of two for clinching its first division title since 2001.
The Astros are a scintillating 12-5 against Seattle this season, and ace Dallas Keuchel will look to stymie the Mariners for the third time this season. All-Star Carlos Correa went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double on Friday but has no homers and two RBIs in 48 at-bats this month. The defeat was a painful one for the Mariners, who sit 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the AL’s second wild-card spot with just 14 games remaining. Kyle Seager was hitless in four at-bats on Friday, ending an 11-game hitting streak during which he belted six homers.
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners RH Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.25 ERA) vs. Astros LH Dallas Keuchel (12-4, 3.03)
Ramirez is winless in his last four outings, including a no-decision against the Astros on Sept. 4 in which he gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The 27-year-old is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA over his last six starts, allowing fewer than three runs five times during the stretch. Ramirez is 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA in eight career appearances (five starts) against Houston and easily has handled Josh Reddick (2-for-19) and Carlos Beltran (1-for-10).
Keuchel has won just one of his last three starts, and the victory came when matched against Ramirez 12 days ago as he allowed two runs and seven hits over 7 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old is limiting opposing batters to a .182 average in nine home starts while going 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Keuchel is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two starts against the Mariners this year and 7-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) as he struggles with Nelson Cruz (10-for-27, three homers).
1. Astros 2B Jose Altuve is batting just .261 in 46 at-bats this month, allowing his major league-best average to drop to .347.
2. Seattle 2B Robinson Cano is mired in an 11-game home-run drought despite batting .333 during the stretch.
3. Houston RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (arm fatigue) is slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday and could rejoin the rotation next week.
PREDICTION: Astros 4, Mariners 0