Even though injuries have undermined their results, the Houston Astros have by every measure failed to meet the lofty expectations that accompanied the opening of this compressed season.
Yet, despite a 6-1 loss to the host Texas Rangers on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, that dropped them a game below .500 prior to the regular-season finale on Sunday, the Astros (29-30) deemed their fourth consecutive postseason berth and fifth in six seasons worthy of positive reflection.
"You've got to appreciate every moment that you get to make the postseason," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "It's very special every single year that we make it. It's been a roller-coaster type of season for us, ups and downs, a lot of injuries here and there, but we've been able to accomplish the first goal which is getting to the playoffs.
"Now we've got to go out there and get hot and be able to perform in order for us to be able to win another World Series," Correa added.
Winning a second World Series in four years seems unlikely for the Astros. Still, the difficulty of the journey has not detracted from the satisfaction of reaching the destination.
"I'm happy about it. This is why I came here," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "This is what I expected from the team, and this is what I expected from myself. It wasn't an easy road. We had a bunch of obstacles, including the coronavirus and injuries and all kinds of things.
"It's very gratifying and I'm very grateful and thankful to be here," Baker said.
Right-hander Chase De Jong (0-0, 14.73 ERA) will start the regular-season finale for the Astros on Sunday. De Jong was recalled from the taxi squad on Friday when right-hander Josh James landed on the 10-day injured list.
De Jong has made two appearances for the Astros this season, including a start against the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 8. He allowed four runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts over three innings in the Astros' 5-4 win.
In his lone career appearance against the Rangers, while he was pitching for the Seattle Mariners, De Jong surrendered one run on four hits with three strikeouts over six innings in an 8-2 victory on May 6, 2017.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.08 ERA) will start for the Rangers on Sunday. Lyles has worked at least five innings in each of his five appearances this month and is 0-3 with a 5.34 ERA during that stretch.
Lyles has dropped five consecutive decisions since his lone win on Aug. 7 when he beat the Los Angeles Angels. Against the Astros, Lyles is 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) and is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA over two appearances (one start) this season.
Texas (21-38) will finish last in the American League West for the second time in three seasons. Instead of taking a step forward in their first season in their new ballpark, Globe Life Field, the Rangers struggled to generate momentum.
"It was a challenging year," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "Regardless of whether we were really successful or not, we knew that it was going to be a challenging year.
"It's a lot to reflect on. There were so many emotional and deep issues that got to the core of who we are as people. I'm proud of the things we've done and obviously, there's a lot of room for improvement in a lot of ways on the field and how we get these guys to play better," Woodward said.
--Field Level Media