The Seattle Mariners moved to a half-game back of the Houston Astros for the third and final American League wild-card spot with a big win over their division rivals on Tuesday.
Behind six scoreless innings from All-Star George Kirby, the Mariners beat the Astros 6-2 to snap a four-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the AL West-leading Texas Rangers fell 9-3 to the Los Angeles Angels, allowing the Astros to keep pace in the division race while preserving the Mariners’ outside chance at a division title.
Astros: 86-72, 2.5 GB
Mariners: 85-72, 3.0 GB
Rays: 96-62, +8.5 games
Blue Jays: 87-70
Astros: 86-72, 1.5 GB
Mariners: 85-72, 2 GB
The division tiebreakers form a perfect triangle. The Mariners hold the advantage over the Astros, the Astros have the edge against the Rangers, and the Rangers get the win over the Mariners.
The Rangers now hold an 86.3 chance of winning the division, per FanGraphs, with the Astros holding 6.9% odds and the Mariners at 6.2%. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ playoff odds sat at 97.3%, the Astros’ at 59.1% and the Mariners’ at 48.6%.
Kirby, one of the Mariners’ breakout stars this year, started the team’s previous win. In the four games since, the Mariners went from 0.5 games back of the division leader to 4.0 behind. Kirby staunched the bleeding Tuesday but was rewarded in bizarre fashion, as a fan hit him in the chest with a baseball from the stands:
The strike didn’t faze Kirby too much, as he kept the inning scoreless before exiting ahead of the seventh. The TBS broadcast later showed a younger fan in a Mariners jersey being escorted out of the stands.
The Mariners took the lead in the third inning with a rally that scored runs on sacrifice flies from Josh Rojas and Julio Rodríguez. Then they broke the game open in the fifth with a three-run frame to take a 5-0 lead. The Astros put together a bases-loaded, no-out threat in the seventh but got only one run out of it after Matt Brash came in and got three straight outs.
The Mariners have one game remaining against the Astros on Wednesday, then they host the Rangers for a pivotal four-game series. The Astros will end their season facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, another team fighting for a wild-card, in a three-game road series.