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Opportunities wasted in Pac North

Astros bats silent again. Is this a playoff team? Really?

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While anything can happen in a 60-game season and the Astros are still likely to make the playoffs, the fact of the matter is, they are not going to go far at all if they keep playing (especially hitting) like this on the road. They will not see Minute Maid Park again until April 2021 as a result of finishing below the top-four seed line in the American League. Houston entered Wednesday’s contest at T-Mobile Park in Seattle with a record of 8-19 with still a very slim chance that they could be passed by the Mariners or Angels and miss the postseason entirely.

It’s not completely impossible, folks. That away record fell to 8-20 by early in the evening as the Astros fell victim to a brilliant pitching performance by a young left-hander in a 3-2 defeat.

A seemingly lackluster game became very interesting in the ninth. With Seattle leading 3-0, Yoshihisa Hirano issued a leadoff walk to Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz roped his second double of the day with two outs. Dusty Baker opted to remove Martin Maldonado in favor of pinch-hitter Josh Reddick, and he looked like a genius when Reddick poked a two-run single to cut the deficit to a run. George Springer then singled on a 2-2 pitch, creating an opportunity for Jose Altuve. Another clutch situation, another disappointment as Altuve swung through a 1-2 fastball to end the game, the 13th one-run loss of the season for the Astros.

The Angels remained hot by defeating San Diego and are 2.5 games behind Houston. By winning, the M’s are still alive, now 3.5 back of the Astros. It would still be unlikely that either team would overtake the Astros, but you never know what may happen if they falter in Arlington this weekend. As of tonight, Houston’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth is two.

Zack Greinke struggled from the get-go, giving up three consecutive hits with one out in the first inning, the last being a double off the bat of Ty France to plate the contest’s first run. However, Greinke did a nice job to limit the damage, eventually fanning Evan White with the bases loaded to get out of it down just 1-0.

The frustrations for the Astros offense can be summed up on the ball that Alex Bregman hit in the third. With two runners on and one out, Bregman hit a frozen rope into the mitt of shortstop J.P. Crawford, who flipped to second and doubled off Diaz after he led off with a double.

Credit must be given to M’s southpaw Nick Margevicius, who pitched the best game of his young career, this being his 27th appearance in the big leagues. He allowed just three hits over six scoreless frames with four strikeouts. Margevicius wiggled out of another sticky situation in the fifth by fanning George Springer with the bases full.

In the bottom of the fifth, Greinke surrendered back-to-back, two-out run scoring hits off the bats of Kyle Seager and France to make it 3-0. After another base hit, the veteran right-hander was pulled after giving up eight hits in 4.2 innings. That won’t get the job done, folks.

Houston put up another threat in the eighth when Springer walked and Altuve singled with one out. Lefty Anthony Misiewicz relieved Kendall Graveman and got Michael Brantley to ground out before freezing Bregman on a 2-2 curve to keep the Astros off the board.

The bullpen was strong again, as Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor and Cy Sneed combined to allow just one hit over the final 3.1 frames.

This marks the first time Houston has lost a series in Seattle since dropping two of three in April 2016.

In the campaign that seemingly began two hours ago, here we are heading into the final regular-season series, with the Astros making their first visit to brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington. First pitch on Thursday is slated for 7:05 p.m. CT, pitting Houston right-hander Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33) against Rangers ace Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53).

For those of you scoreboard watchers, the Angels head to Dodger Stadium for the final three contests of the regular season, while the Mariners will be in Oakland for a three-game set. Both Anaheim and Seattle are off on Thursday.