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Astros aim to lock up best AL record, face D-backs

The Houston Astros concluded the road portion of their regular-season schedule at 51-30, the second-best mark in the majors. Now they will open a season-ending, eight-game homestand on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Houston (101-53) rallied for four runs in their final at-bat for the second time in as many games on Sunday to split their four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles with a 6-3, 11-inning victory.

By rallying twice against Baltimore, the Astros lowered their magic number to clinch the best record in the American League to three. Earning home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs is the lone remaining incentive as Houston enters the final week of the season.

“It’s play like we’re playing right now and keep winning ballgames,” Astros catcher Christian Vazquez said of the team’s approach. “And bring that to the postseason.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 2.38 ERA) will make his eighth start of the season in the series opener for the Astros on Tuesday. McCullers has allowed two runs in each of his last four starts, earning victories in three of those appearances.

In his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays, he allowed six hits and two walks while recording eight strikeouts in seven innings in a 5-2 win last Wednesday. McCullers has 32 strikeouts over his last 25 2/3 innings.

McCullers is 1-1 with a 6.86 ERA over four career starts against the Diamondbacks and 4-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 13 interleague starts. He last faced Arizona on Sept. 18, 2021, when he allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over six innings in the Astros’ 6-4 loss.

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Right-hander Zach Davies (2-4, 4.03 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Diamondbacks (71-83).

Davies has recorded 11 consecutive no-decisions, pitching to a 4.14 ERA and a .768 opponent OPS during that span. Davies posted his last decision on June 20, a 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, and hasn’t earned a victory since May 13, when he defeated the Chicago Cubs 4-3 after surrendering three runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

Davies has made one career start against the Astros, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over eight innings in a 13-2 victory with the Padres on Aug. 22, 2020.

The Diamondbacks have dropped eight of 11 games but four of those were one-run losses, including a 3-2 setback to the San Francisco Giants in their home finale on Sunday. Rookie right-hander Drey Jameson did not factor into the decision despite tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing five hits and three walks with five strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 0.98 in three starts.

Jameson is one of three Arizona starting pitchers to make his debut this season, joining left-hander Tommy Henry and right-hander Ryne Nelson.

“We get spoiled when these young kids come up here and fire up these zeroes but he still was very, very efficient,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said of Jameson. “True to his form he’s tough-minded, he didn’t give in and he kept us in the game.”

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