Astros clinch 6th consecutive postseason berth
They're the first AL team to clinch a playoff spot and the second in MLB behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Astros, 95-50, will now attempt to clinch their second consecutive AL West title and fifth since 2017. They hold a 14-game lead over the second-place Seattle Mariners. Any combination of four Astros wins or Mariners losses will make it official.
If the regular season ended Friday, the Astros would earn a bye with the best record in the American League. They hold a seven-game lead over the New York Yankees for the top seed in the Junior Circuit.
The Astros would then face the winner of a three-game wild-card series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Mariners played entirely at Rogers Centre. The AL wild-card race could change complexion very easily, though, with the three teams currently occupying those spots separated by merely 1 1/2 games.
Justin Verlander, fresh off the injured list, earned the victory as the 39-year-old continued his pursuit for a third AL Cy Young nod with nine strikeouts over five shutout innings.
Yordan Alvarez helped carry the offense, going 4-for-4 with three solo homers. He came tantalizingly close to becoming the first player since 2017 to have a four-homer game but wound up hitting a single in his final plate appearance in the seventh inning. The 25-year-old now has 36 homers for the season, boasting an incredible 1.032 OPS.
"It's pretty cool when a major league player can make other major league players be in awe," Verlander said of Alvarez, according to The Associated Press.
It's been a near-dynastic run for the Astros since 2015, winning one World Series, appearing in two others, and making the playoffs in seven of eight seasons. Houston is staring down its fourth 100-win campaign since 2017 despite losing key players from previous deep postseason runs, including Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Gerrit Cole. Internal replacements such as Alvarez, Jeremy Pena, Kyle Tucker, and Framber Valdez have helped keep the team competitive.
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