The Astros are the fourth team to punch their ticket to the MLB postseason in 2017. The Washington Nationals are the National League East champs, and the Cleveland Indians won the American League Central, while the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers are assured of at least a playoff berth.
Houston beat the Mariners 7-1 at home on Sunday afternoon, behind seven strong innings from recent trade acquisition Justin Verlander, who struck out 10 in his home Astros debut.
In three starts with his new team, Verlander is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and three walks in 21 innings.
The Astros trailed 1-0 until a four-run fifth turned things around, with two-run home runs by Derek Fisher and Marwin Gonzalez. In the seventh, George Springer and Carlos Correa added home runs to pad Houston’s advantage. As a team, the Astros lead baseball in both slugging percentage (.479) and runs per game (5.47).
Houston, winner of four straight, had a chance to clinch as early as Saturday night had the Angels lost, but the Halos beat the Texas Rangers in Anaheim to stave off elimination for one more day. That gave the Astros a chance to clinch, and celebrate on the field.
On Saturday, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of the division, “I don’t care how we finish it out, just finish it out.”
The Astros (91-58) are 1½ games behind Cleveland (93-57) for the best record in the American League. Houston’s 91 wins are its most in a season since winning 94 games in 2004.
Houston’s last division title came 16 years ago, when it was not only in a different division, but a different league. The Astros won the National League Central in 2001, their fourth division title in five seasons. Since then, Houston has reached the playoffs three times as a Wild Card team, including a World Series appearance in 2005, and a trip to the NLDS in 2015.