FRICK!!! September 23 was the worst possible day for the Astros, pretty much. The frikking Ramgers clinched after Carlos Gómez broke up a no hitter in the seventh. Frikking Baltimore won in extras after tying it up in the frikking ninth on Matt Wieters' 15th jack of the year. The Orioles rode three solo home runs to a tight win over the D-Backs. Detroit hammered the Royals, while the Blue Jays hammered the Yankees. And the Mariners double-hammered the Twinkies. All of that sucked for Astros fans, who watched their team give up a six-spot in the ninth with a combination of multi-run home runs and BABIP rubbish-luck. Not many games where teams can withstand a six-run ninth, although the vast majority of the Astros' Wildcard opponents could have. So the Astros lost. Carlos Correa was pulled from the game after re-aggravating his shoulder on some of that BABIP witchcraft. It ain't easy being an Astros fan.
So... the standings look like this.
Rangers - WINNERS, damn it all.
* current holders of the Wild Card spots.
The County Mountie started a Games That Matter column earlier in the month. He is out of town, so get to cover the weekend. Apologies for the quiet nature of Astros County recently, especially from me. The reasons are long, complicated, involve excessive workloads and limited energy. So, apologies.
Kansas City at Detroit, 1 ET
The mercurial Yordano Ventura goes up against the young and bearded Daniel Norris. The Royals have had some crippling injuries this year, but mostly have not managed to repeatedly string game-winning rallies together, like they did against the 'stros. The Tigers have managed to keep most of their hitters healthy for most of the season, and for once don't have a totally horrible bullpen. The Tigers are also riding a five-game win streak. Astros fans need some help in this one.
Arizona at Baltimore, 1 ET
The D-Backs' demise is bittersweet for Astros fans. On one hand, Tony La Russa looks like an incompetent old-school boob. On the other hand, the D-Backs are kind of awful when we don't need them to be. Baltimore finally got off a 4 game slide (including six losses in their last eight) with a two late home runs to tie the game, and one twelfth inning jack to seal the deal. Arizona sends Robbie Ray to the bump, whereas Baltimore counters with ex-D-Back Wade Miley. So there's that.
New York at Toronto, 4 ET
The Yankees tried an impossible mid-season reboot, and looked like they could pull it off for a while. They have struggled recently, losing 7 of 8 between Sept 11 and Sept 18. Toronto has been cashing in future prospects for current major-leaguers for quite a while now, and this may be the end of their dynasty with a host of righty-hitting sluggers looking set to don another uniform next year. The Blue Jays of 2017 are going to look quite different, so I am sure they are desperate to hold on here. The matchup here is interesting - CC Sabathia versus the young and exciting Marcus Stroman.
Seattle at Minnesota, 7 ET
Perhaps the less said about this one, the better. The 55-99 Twins are the worst team in the majors by around 8 games. They are 28.5 games back in the Wild Card. They are, uh, not good. My prediction is that the Mariners will be able to allow a six-run ninth to the Twins, and still comfortably win. For the record, the matchup is Ariel Miranda and his 2.16 September ERA versus Houstonian Tyler Duffey and his 8.31 September ERA. We need some serious, serious help here, Astros fans.
Los Angeles combined with the City of Anaheim, at Houston, 7 ET
The Astros need to win. The Angels are suddenly hot, with the best player of the 2000-2009 decade, and the best player from 2010 onwards both cranking on all cylinders, and supported by a bunch of career castoffs (and newly-minted fathers) who can suddenly play competent baseball. Not fair!! It is hard being an Astros fan, but frankly, the Astros are having to pick up the cheque for a 6-15 start, and a 5-14 record between July 29 and August 18. Jhoulys Chacin versus Brad Peacock, who now looks like the Astros' #2 starter for the 2017 season. Shudder.