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Astros take on Mariners in pivotal 4-game series

Alex Bregman reacts to being called out on strikes against the Giants in the top of the third inning at AT&T Park on August 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Alex Bregman reacts to being called out on strikes against the Giants in the top of the third inning at AT&T Park on August 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The Astros host the Mariners in a four-game series this weekend that could have a substantial effect on the American League West.

Entering Thursday's slate of games, Houston holds a five-game division lead over the Oakland A's and an eight-game lead over Seattle.

The Mariners have been scuffling lately, losing seven of their last 10 games and 11 of their last 17.

The Astros are coming home after a 6-2, eight-game road trip.

After a season-high, five-game losing streak, Houston has won six of its last seven games.

The Astros host the Mariners for four games and then the Rockies for two games at Minute Maid Park. The 'Stros then head out on a three-city, nine-game road trip before returning home for a 10-game homestand.

Houston has a 73-42 record this season, the second-best mark in the majors. The Red Sox hold the league's best mark at 81-34. No team in the National League has more than 66 wins.

Seattle is 65-50 and is currently three games out of a Wild Card berth.

Here's a look at the pitching matchups this weekend:

Thursday 7:10 p.m.: James Paxton (9-5, 3.51 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (11-6, 2.19 ERA)

Friday 7:10 p.m.: Mike Leake (8-7, 4.16 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (10-4, 2.64 ERA)

Saturday 6:10 p.m.: Wade LeBlanc (6-2, 3.81 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (12-2, 2.81 ERA)

Sunday 1:10 p.m.: Felix Hernandez (8-10, 5.73 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 3.53 ERA)