Astros face playoff pressure at Rangers

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The Houston Astros squandered an opportunity to clinch a postseason berth on Wednesday and put themselves in a position to face a stressful four-game weekend series in Arlington.

By dropping the rubber match of their three-game series with the Seattle Mariners, the Astros (28-28) saw their magic number to secure second place in the American League West hold at two. Houston lost 3-2 and has scored more than three runs just four times over its last 16 games and five series.

The Astros will close the regular season against the Texas Rangers (19-37) at Globe Life Field.

“We need to do a better job offensively,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “We need to get better. It’s getting down to the end of the season so we need to start swinging the bats a lot better.”

Said Astros manager Dusty Baker: “We’re better hitters than we’re hitting. The guys are putting in the work and putting in the time.”

Houston remains in pole position, needing just one win and one loss by the Los Angeles Angels to qualify for the postseason. The Angels open a three-game series against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

Still, given their offensive struggles, the Astros know what is required this weekend.

“I think we just need to play better baseball,” Bregman said.

Rookie right-hander Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) will start the series opener for Houston on Thursday. In his return to the rotation following his second career relief appearance, Javier allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts over four innings in a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday.

Javier has recorded a 3.55 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 42 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings in nine starts. He limited the Rangers to one run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 victory at Minute Maid Park on Sept. 2.

Right-hander Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Rangers. Lynn is tied for the MLB lead in starts (12), is second in innings pitched (78 1/3) and has posted the lowest WHIP (0.96) of his career.

Lynn has logged seven innings in each of his previous three starts, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 21 strikeouts while limiting opposing batters to a .189 average during that stretch. He did allow a season-high six runs on eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over six innings in an 8-4 loss to the Astros on Sept. 3.

Lynn is 5-5 with a 3.13 ERA over 12 career appearances (11 starts) against Houston.

Rookie left-hander Wes Benjamin will not make a start in the Houston series but he continues to make a name for himself as Texas brass evaluates potential fixtures down the stretch. Benjamin allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk over five innings but did not factor into the decision in a 7-3 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

“I know he wants the ball, I know he loves to compete out there,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I trust his execution, I think that shows right from the beginning from pitch one. He executes all his pitches done by the count, attacks the game plan for the opposing hitter and he just does that as consistently as anybody on our roster to be honest.”

–Field Level Media

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