(Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
Bryce Miller grew up in Texas, dreaming of one day leading the Houston Astros to the playoffs.
Instead, the rookie right-hander will take the mound Wednesday night for the Seattle Mariners, trying to push them past the visiting Astros and into the American League's third and final wild-card position.
Miller (8-6, 4.17 ERA) has faced the Astros twice this season, winning both without allowing an earned run on just four hits over 12 1/3 innings.
"That's the team I grew up watching, so the first time (against them) was pretty exciting," Miller told Root Sports Northwest before Tuesday's game. "But now I'm all in for Seattle."
Miller is 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA in September, alternating good starts with bad ones. He's due for a rebound after allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 8-5 loss last Friday at Texas.
The Astros (86-72) will counter with left-hander Framber Valdez (12-11, 3.39).
Valdez is 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 11 career appearances (nine starts) against the Mariners, though he suffered his only loss to them Aug. 19 in Houston. Valdez allowed six runs on 10 hits over five innings in a 10-3 loss.
Valdez also has struggled of late. He lost 7-5 to visiting Kansas City last Friday as he gave up seven runs (six earned) on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out 10.
The Mariners (85-72) beat the Astros 6-2 Tuesday to even the series at a game apiece. George Kirby pitched six scoreless innings and Ty France homered to help Seattle snap a four-game skid.
"It really makes it interesting (Wednesday night) and that's the way it's going to be down the stretch here," said Mariners manager Scott Servais, whose team will close the regular season with a four-game series against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. "We've got to come out (Wednesday) with the same kind of fire in our belly, because it was there (Tuesday)."
The Astros have lost 10 of their past 14 games as they try to extend their playoff streak to seven consecutive seasons. They've won two World Series in that span, including last year's.
The hardly looked like the defending champions Tuesday, committing errors in both the third and fifth innings as the Mariners took a 5-0 lead. They had three errors in all.
"We didn't play real well," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Kind of threw the ball around and then didn't back up the bases a couple of times."
The Mariners are one-half game behind the Astros in the standings but even in the loss column. While the Mariners are facing the Rangers, the Astros will end the season with three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are in a fierce fight for a National League wild-card berth.
The Astros don't want to head to Phoenix behind in the wild-card standings, especially with the Mariners holding the tiebreaker over the Astros.
"Probably the biggest game of the year," second baseman Jose Altuve said of Wednesday's series finale. "Gotta win. Gotta go out there and score more runs than them and win the game, win the series."
--Field Level Media