The Astros entered play on Saturday having dropped their previous five games and nine of their last 11. They are clinging to life as the potential second Wild Card berth in the American League and sit 2 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West. To make matters worse, Saturday's matchup on tap was against Athletics' ace right-hander Sonny Gray. To say that the Astros needed a spark on Saturday would be a major understatement.
After the Astros jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the A's scratched out six runs and led 6-3 heading into the sixth inning. The Astros got a pair back in the sixth, cutting the deficit to one and setting the stage for the dramatic to occur the following frame.
The Astros put two men on base with two outs against Athletics reliever Fernando Rodriguez, when Evan Gattis strode to the plate. Understanding the importance of the situation and wasting zero time, Gattis clobbered the first pitch that he saw over the wall in right field, giving the Astros an 8-6 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish.
The Astros have been one of the feel-good stories of the 2015 season and are in danger of missing out on the postseason. They'll enter play on Sunday just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Angels for the final Wild Card spot in the American League. Should they be able to hold on and secure the team's first playoff berth since 2005, many will point to this mighty blast off the bat of Gattis as a pivotal moment that may have swung the pendulum in their direction.
Cardinals lock up first playoff spot
Despite losing on Saturday, the Cardinals became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot in 2015. They entered play on Saturday with their magic number at one, but dropped a 5-4 decision to the Cubs early in the afternoon. Their celebration wouldn't be on hold for long though, as their spot became secure when the Diamondbacks knocked off the Giants later in the evening.
The Cardinals currently own the best record in all of baseball at 92-56 and are heading to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, a club record. Manager Mike Matheny has also made history of his own, becoming the first manager in big league history to lead his club to the postseason in each of his first four seasons at the helm.
The Cardinals have won a playoff series in each of the last four seasons and are looking to become the first team since the Atlanta Braves of the late 1990s to advance to the National League Championship series in five consecutive seasons.
The next mark in their sights is securing a third straight National League Central Division Title. They'll enter play on Sunday with a magic number of 11, holding a four game lead over the Pirates with 14 games to play.
Brandon Belt concussed again
Brandon Belt sustained head and neck injuries when he slid into a knee at second base during Tuesday's game against the Reds. While he passed his initial round of concussion tests, he began feeling a weird on Friday and has gotten progressively worse since then.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that he won't return to action until he passes all of his tests and is cleared to play. At this stage of the season, and with little left to play for, it may be in everyone's best interest to hold the first baseman out for the remainder of the year.
The 27-year-old has dealt with a vast array of injuries and ailments over his young career. Post-concussion symptoms can tend to linger if not treated properly, so expect them to exercise every possible precaution in this situation. It certainly clouds Belt's fantasy outlook heading into the 2016 season.
When he has been able to be on the field, Belt has produced at a high level this season. He's hitting .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs, 68 RBI and nine stolen bases over 137 games. With him on the shelf, the Giants will roll with Buster Posey as their everyday first baseman while Trevor Brown and Jackson Williams see the bulk of the action behind the plate.
American League Quick Hits: The Angels swept Saturday's doubleheader against the Twins, moving to within 1 1/2 games of the Astros for the final Wild Card spot in the American League... Mike Trout blasted his 39th home run in the nightcap of Saturday's twin bill... Pablo Sandoval (illness) missed his second consecutive game on Saturday... Carlos Gomez (intercostal) has still yet to begin swinging a bat... Michael Pineda fired 5 1/3 shutout innings in a pivotal victory over the Mets... Troy Tulowitzki (shoulder) continues to improve, but remains without a timetable for his return... Josh Phegley has been diagnosed with a concussion... Jackie Bradley slugged a two-run homer as part of a five-run rally in the ninth inning to beat the Blue Jays... Grady Sizemore was forced to leave Saturday's game against the Orioles with a leg contusion... Carlos Carrasco fanned nine over five innings in a loss to the White Sox... Delino DeShields left Saturday's game against the M's with a bruised left knee... Ian Kinsler belted a walk-off homer in the 11th inning to defeat the Royals... Cole Hamels racked up 12 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball as the Rangers defeated the Mariners.
National League Quick Hits: Jacob deGrom has had hit next start pushed back in an effort to keep him fresh for the postseason... Jimmy Nelson (concussion) has passed all of his tests thus far, but will have his start on Tuesday skipped for precautionary reasons... Chase Anderson will rejoin the D'Backs rotation on Wednesday against the Dodgers... Matt Carpenter belted his 24th home run as the Cardinals fell to the Cubs... Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-4 and is now hitless in his last 17 at-bats... Kris Bryant clubbed his 25th home run in a victory over the Cardinals... The Nationals plan to move Anthony Rendon back to third base for the 2016 season... Bryce Harper smashed his 41st home run as the Nationals topped the Marlins... Patrick Corbin hurled seven scoreless innings to defeat the Giants... Yohan Flande was lifted from Saturday's start with a bruised left patellar tendon after taking a line drive off his left knee... Jerad Eickhoff twirled seven shutout frames in a no-decision against the Braves... Khris Davis was forced to leave Saturday's game with a twisted right ankle... Elian Herrera had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after a tough collision with teammate Shane Peterson. Peterson sustained a bruised knee while Herrera wound up with a deep thigh bruise... Domingo Santana homered and drove in five runs in a loss to the Reds... Justin Turner was pulled from Saturday's contest due to left knee soreness... Francisco Liriano struck out nine over seven innings, out-dueling Clayton Kershaw in a victory over the Dodgers... Todd Frazier slugged his career-high 35th home run in a victory over the Brewers.