When the Astros joined the American League in 2013, they were expected to be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. They were in the beginning stages of what GM Jeff Luhnow promised would be a long rebuilding process. That rebuilding process took another step towards the goal of winning a World Series Sunday afternoon.
Behind yet another stellar effort by Justin Verlander, who was making just his third start as a member of the Astros since his trade from Detroit at the end of August, the Astros raced past the Mariners 7-1 to clinch the AL West title.
It’s the first AL West title for the Astros in team history. The last time they won a series championship was in 2001, when there were in the National League.
Verlander and the Astros fell behind in the third inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Seattle’s Ben Gamel, but that was the only mistake Verlander made. He went seven innings, giving up the one run on three hits with ten strikeouts, and is now 3-0 as a member of the ‘Stros.
The Astros took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth inning when Derek Fisher hit a two run home run. Marwin Gonzalez also connected for a two-run shot in the fifth to make not a 4-1 ballgame.
The Astros didn’t need the insurance, but got a two-run homer from George Springer in the 7th. Carlos Correa added a slo shot to make it a 7-1 game. Chris Devenski and Ken Giles each pitched an inning of scoreless relief to close the game out and make the Astros champions.
And after the game the team made the over 30,000 fans at Minute Maid Park part of the celebration but taking a lap around the field and shaking hands with the fans.
The Astros still have two weeks left in the regular season, but winning the division means they don’t have to play an extra game in the Wildcard.
The Astros still trail the Cleveland Indians for the best record in the American League, so if the current standings hold the Astros would play the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.
But, if the Astros can overtake the Indians and earn the best record in the AL, they would play the winner of the AL Wildcard game and then have home field advantage in the ALCS as well.