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Astros return to postseason with something to prove
PHOENIX — The Houston Astros made the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons Sunday, and first-year manager A.J. Hinch was not about to let the opportunity pass without letting his team know what he thought of them.
“Nobody else outside this clubhouse thought we had a chance,” Hinch said. “They said a lot of things about this team, right? One thing they are going to say forever is that we are a (bleeping) playoff team. I’ll bet on this team. I love you (guys).”
The Astros clinched a wild card berth despite their loss at Arizona when Texas eliminated the Los Angeles Angels earlier in the day.
The Astros will play the New York Yankees in the AL wild card game Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five series against Kansas City that begins Thursday. The Yankees lost to Baltimore on Sunday, but Houston could not take advantage. The Astros would have been home for the game had they won.
“What matters right now is that we are going to the playoffs,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. “We’re going to play hard every day, no matter what.”
Top AL Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel (20-8) will start on three days’ rest for the Astros, opposing Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Keuchel won his 20th game of the season in the first game of the Arizona series Friday.
“It’s going to be like any other start,” Keuchel said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Kuechel was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season. He gave up three hits and struck out nine in seven shutout innings of a 15-1 victory at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 25, using only 88 pitches.
He matches up well against a Yankees’ lineup that includes five left-handed hitting starters — Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Didi Gregorius and Steven Drew.
Houston won the season series against the Yankees, four games to three. The Astros took two of three at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 24-26, outscoring New York 21-4.