Sports Minute: Astros clinch final AL playoff spot despite loss to Rangers
By SCHUYLER DIXONAP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Houston clinched the final spot in the expanded American League playoffs when the Los Angeles Angels lost about two hours after the Astros fell 5-4 to the Texas Rangers in 10 innings Friday night.
The Astros were a strike away from clinching a franchise-best fourth straight postseason berth themselves when Ronald Guzman hit a tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for the last-place Rangers, who stopped a four-game losing streak.
Houston went up again 4-3 in the top of the 10th on a sacrifice fly from Alex Bregman, who homered in the sixth inning. Nick Solak matched Bregman's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning before Joey Gallo's run-scoring fielder's choice forced Houston to wait a little longer.
Plagued by the offseason sign-stealing scandal that tarnished their 2017 World Series championship, the Astros (29-29) enter the playoffs as the second-place team in the AL West, seeking redemption with an injury-depleted roster.
Houston, which already had its three-year reign atop the division ended by Oakland, currently is the only AL playoff team without a winning record.
The Angels' 9-5 loss to the Dodgers made Houston's Dusty Baker the first manager to lead five different franchises to the playoffs.
Hired just before spring training after AJ Hinch was fired almost immediately after Major League Baseball suspended him for a year over the cheating scandal, Baker has already taken San Francisco, the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati and Washington to the postseason.
Rookie catcher Sam Huff homered twice, his second and third, for the first two Rangers runs. The 22-year-old Huff is the second-youngest Texas catcher with a multihomer game, behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a 30-3 win over Baltimore in 2007.
Enoli Paredes (3-3) walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to start the Texas 10th, and the bases were loaded after first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s throw to second was wide on a sharp grounder from Willie Calhoun.
Brett Martin (1-1) got the win, giving up a single to Kyle Tucker after Bregman’s sacrifice before getting a popout from Gurriel, who put the Astros ahead 3-2 in the eighth on a soft single inside the bag at first with Guzman playing well off the line on a shift.
Guzman’s fourth homer of the season barely cleared the wall down the line in right.
3,000 STRAIGHT FOR PA MAN
Chuck Morgan of the Rangers is set to call his 3,000th consecutive game as a major league public address announcer Saturday. Morgan has spent 37 of his 38 seasons with Texas. The other was in Kansas City. It’s hard for him to call it a celebration in a season without fans.
“It would really be much better for me tomorrow night if we had 40,000 people in the ballpark,” Morgan said. “I don’t like it, but I accept it.”
Astros: Baker said C Martín Maldonado got his legs tangled on the final play at the plate, but he hoped he would be OK. Maldonado stayed down on the field as the Rangers celebrated before walking off slowly on his own. ... RHP Josh James was placed on the 10-day injured list for an unspecified reason, and RHP Chase De Jong was brought up from the taxi squad.
Rangers: Manager Chris Woodward said rookie 3B Sherten Apostel won't play again this season after leaving Thursday's game with back spasms following an awkward dive to field a ball.
The Astros were waiting for the LA outcome to decide who would start the third game in the four-game series to finish the regular season. RHP Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rangers.
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