The Seattle Mariners moved to a half-game back from the Houston Astros for the third and final American League wild-card spot with a big win over their division rival 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.
AL West standings
Astros: 86-72, 2.5 GB
Mariners, 85-72, 3.0 GB
AL wild-card standings
Rays: 96-62, +9.5 games
Blue Jays: 87-70, +1.0 games
Mariners, 85-72, 0.5 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 entered the day with an 87.2% chance of winning the division, per Fangraphs, with the Astros holding 10.6% odds and the Mariners at 2.2%. Meanwhile, the Rangers' playoff odds sat at 99.0%, the Astros at 75.5% and the Mariners at 29.5%.
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 from the division leader to 4.0. Kirby staunched the bleeding, but was rewarded in bizarre fashion when a fan hit him in the chest with a baseball from the stands:
The strike didn't phase 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 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 only got 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 head to Texas for a pivotal four-game series against the Rangers. The Astros will end their season facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, another team fighting for a wild-card, in a three-game road series.