Could it have gone any other way?
The Houston Astros clinched their division—thereby securing a place in the postseason—Sunday afternoon by defeating the Seattle Mariners by a score of 7-1. It’s the seventh division championship in Astros history, and the first since 2001. The ‘Stros last made the playoffs as a Wild Card team in 2015, losing in the ALDS to Kansas City, the eventual World Series champs.
A noisy crowd of 30,247 was on hand to witness Houston’s crowning moment, just weeks after the city was rocked by Hurricane Harvey. Players interacted with fans after the game before retreating to the clubhouse for a celebratory champagne shower.
A resurgent Justin Verlander earned the win on Sunday by pitching seven innings and striking out ten in his first home start since a late-August trade from Detroit. Verlander’s heating up at the right time of the year – he worked to a 2.36 ERA in August and is sitting on a negligible 0.86 ERA in three September starts for the Astros. For the season, he’s 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 202 strikeouts across 193 innings. In other words, it’s shaping up to be another vintage season from one of the most dominant pitchers in modern history.
Verlander and the Astros aren’t done yet—with the division in hand and 91 wins in the bank, they’re chasing the Cleveland Indians for home field advantage throughout the postseason, which will go to the team with the best regular season record. Cleveland has played one more game than Houston thus far, and has emerged with two more wins.
The chase continues tomorrow night, when Houston welcomes the Chicago White Sox to Minute Maid. Collin McHugh squares off against top prospect Lucas Giolito in game one. Consult our guide to the ballpark, then snap up your tickets to watch the Astros tuning up for what they hope will be a long run into October.