Mariners Vanquished As Deadline Looms
Slumping Red Sox Visit Minute Maid

James Click: weighing deals
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(Note: As of 11 a.m. Monday, there have been no trades reported by the Astros. The trade deadline is 5:00 p.m. Central on Tuesday. It's expected something will happen before that time.)

You can tentatively raise the A.L. West Division banner over Minute Maid Park after the Astros finished their last series of the year against the second-place Seattle Mariners with Houston a full dozen games ahead. The 67-36 (.650) Astros are in second behind the Yankees (69-34) for the league's best record. They're on a pace for 102 wins. The M's would need to put on a closing spurt for the ages to catch them.

The Spacemen took three-of-four this weekend and 12-of-19 over Seattle in their season series. Houston won by scores of 4-2, 11-1 and 3-2 while dropping Saturday's game, 5-4, on a blown save in the ninth. Alex Bregman was the headliner on Thursday as he homered and doubled to drive in three. Justin Verlander won his 14th Friday in the 11-1 blowout. Aledmys Diaz drilled two homers while Yordan Alvarez and Mauricio Dubon went deep.

The M's built a quick 3-0 lead off Framber Valdez on Saturday but the offense clawed their way back in the late innings on the back of Diaz who homered and singled for the first two runs. In the seventh, RBI hits by Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel gave the Astros the lead but, in the ninth, former Astro Abraham Toro spanked a two-run hit off Ryan Pressly which gave Seattle the win.

The two teams battled to a 2-2 draw in Sunday's finale. In the tenth inning, Alvarez poked a single past the shortstop that plated ghost runner Dubon with the walk-off triumph.

The Boston Red Sox, whom the Astros met in last year's LCS, have fallen on hard times this year. They are still loaded offensively but pitching has been a major disappointment. They arrive at Minute Maid for a three-game set beginning Monday in last place in the American League East, although just one game below the .500 mark at 51-52.

Luis Garcia (8-6, 3.81 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Monday's 7:10 p.m. Central opener against former nemesis Nathan Eovaldi (4-3, 4.43). Boston has yet to name their starters for the final two games of the series but Houston will send out Cristian Javier (6-6, 3.26) and Jose Urquidy (9-4, 3.86) for the Tuesday middle game (7:10 p.m. Central) and the Wednesday finale (1:10 p.m. Central).

Urquidy is one of the names bandied about in trade talks and there were those who believed his start on Thursday would be his last in a Houston uniform. Starting pitcher depth is a strength of the Astros and Urquidy's availability would have more to do with a numbers game than any dissatisfaction with his performance. Garcia's name has also come up along with veteran Jake Odorizzi who's Sunday outing in a no-decision raised his stock.

What the Astros hope to get are help at catcher, first base, center field and lefthanded relief. Washington's Josh Bell (1B) remains a key target. Supposedly, the Astros have given up on Cubs' backstop Willson Contreras and are now checking in on Boston's Christian Vazquez who is, conveniently, right in town. Another possibility that's here in town is Boston lefty Jake Diekman, the former reliever of the Rangers and Athletics, among others.

As soon as we learn something and can get to a computer, we'll keep you posted on personnel moves leading up to the Tuesday deadline.

- Bob Hulsey