The rebuilding Seattle Mariners aren't out of the playoff race just yet.
The Mariners (24-30) enter Tuesday night's game against visiting Houston (27-27) three games behind the Astros in the chase for second place in the American League West with six games to play.
The race isn't quite that close, however, as the Astros have already clinched the season series, which would be the first tiebreaker. That means the Mariners are essentially four games back.
"Right now, we're preaching day by day," Mariners ace Marco Gonzales said after pitching eight scoreless innings in a 6-1 victory against the Astros in the series opener Monday night at T-Mobile Park. "We got a win today. We check that box. We're gonna come out (Tuesday) and win a ballgame. Can't get more complicated than that.
"That's how we have to do this thing. We get out of our heads and start thinking about things like that. That's not the right way to go. So we're gonna come in (Tuesday) and win a ballgame."
The Mariners returned to Seattle on Monday after playing the first five games of their eight-game homestand in San Francisco and San Diego because of hazardous air quality due to wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle went 1-4 in their five "home" games on the road.
Gonzales (7-2), a left-hander who was 0-5 with a 7.22 ERA in eight previous appearances (seven starts) against the Astros, allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out six. It was just Seattle's third victory in 27 games against Houston over the past two seasons.
"Marco came in the clubhouse today ornery," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He came with a little chip on his shoulder. Players know who they've been successful against, maybe who they've had some struggles against. And you know, Marco, he likes the challenge. He likes when people think they got his number, and he is a fighter. We saw that (Monday)."
Rookie first baseman Evan White hit a three-run homer for the Mariners.
Seattle's victory clinched the AL West title for Oakland, ending the Astros' three-year reign.
"What's most important is the game at hand tonight and then the game tomorrow and the next day," Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Left-hander Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday for the Astros. Valdez has gone at least seven innings five times this season and held Texas to one run in 6 1/3 innings last Thursday. Valdez is 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five career appearances against the Mariners, including three starts. He earned an 11-1 victory Aug. 14 in Seattle in which he allowed one run on four hits in six innings, with five strikeouts.
The Mariners will counter with rookie right-hander Ljay Newsome (0-1, 6.35), who will be facing the Astros for the first time. After throwing only 1 1/3 innings in a 19-day span because of postponements and taking a line drive from San Francisco's Brandon Crawford off his right wrist, Newsome suffered his first loss last week, allowing five runs on three hits in eight innings in a rematch against the Giants.
--Field Level Media