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Playoff spots assured, Phillies-Astros wind up

Philadelphia veteran first baseman Rhys Hoskins played in 665 regular-season games prior to Monday and it seemed that he waited a baseball lifetime for the result of the 666th.

The Phillies (87-73) clinched their first postseason berth since 2011 with their 3-0 victory over the Astros, a win that secured the third and final National League wild-card berth. Hoskins entered the three-game road interleague series with the second-most games played among current major leaguers without a postseason appearance.

Tops on that undesirable list? Phillies second baseman Jean Segura, who played his 1,327th game before ending his own personal drought.

“This is why we play,” Hoskins said. “A lot of blood, a lot of sweat, a lot of tears – it’s a great group. I’m just excited. What a group of guys. What a group of coaches, all of the staff. It’s a group effort. Without anybody that’s here right now, we don’t get here.”

Left-hander Ranger Suarez (10-6, 3.37 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Phillies on Tuesday. He suffered his first loss in three months in his last outing, allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts over six innings in a 2-0 setback to the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 29.

Suarez had been 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA over his previous 12 starts. He has allowed more than three earned runs in a start once since a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on June 29.

Suarez will make his first career appearance against the Astros.

Right-hander Justin Verlander (17-4, 1.80 ERA) has the starting assignment for Houston on Tuesday. Vying for his third career Cy Young Award and second with the Astros, Verlander is winless over his last two starts despite recording a 2.08 ERA and .587 opponent OPS.

He had recorded nine consecutive winning decisions over a 12-start span previously while posting a 1.21 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. Verlander leads the American League in wins, winning percentage (.810), and hits per nine innings (6.1) while pacing the majors in ERA, adjusted ERA (214) and WHIP (0.847). He previously won the Cy Young in 2011 and 2019.

Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against the Phillies. In his previous appearance against them on May 24, 2016, he allowed three hits and two walks while recording 10 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in a 3-1 home win while pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

After missing the first 114 games with a right flexor strain, Astros right-hander Lance McCullers pitched effectively on Monday in his eighth and final start of the regular season. He allowed one run on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts over six innings.

McCullers’ next start will come in the playoffs, during which he is 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA over 16 appearances (nine starts) for Houston (104-56).

“I feel very confident with Lance,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s been a big-game pitcher for the organization for a number of years. He’s sharp, he’s sharp with all his stuff.”

The Astros have been cautious in building up McCullers, who has exceeded 100 pitches twice and tossed 94 pitches against the Phillies. After just 47 2/3 innings, McCullers feels ready to go.

“I’m confident in myself and feel like as long as I came out of my rehab healthy, I was going to throw the ball well,” McCullers said. “Seems like a lot of other people are surprised but I’m glad that the season up to this point out of rehab has gone well. I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well against quality opponents.”

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