Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Houston Astros
news

Astros News

Astros ride 9-run 8th, trim magic number to 5

Altuve's homer caps frame after Angels rally in top of the inning
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros' biggest inning of the season, a nine-run uprising in the eighth, may have left the Minute Maid Park crowd in near disbelief. But it's just a testament to the caliber of their lineup

In erasing a four-run deficit, Houston struck quick and furiously to stun the Angels in a 10-5 victory on Saturday night. With the win, the first-place Astros trimmed their magic number for an American League West title to five, while the A's rallied for a 3-2 walk-off win over the Twins to stay 3 1/2 games back in the division race.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- The Astros' biggest inning of the season, a nine-run uprising in the eighth, may have left the Minute Maid Park crowd in near disbelief. But it's just a testament to the caliber of their lineup

In erasing a four-run deficit, Houston struck quick and furiously to stun the Angels in a 10-5 victory on Saturday night. With the win, the first-place Astros trimmed their magic number for an American League West title to five, while the A's rallied for a 3-2 walk-off win over the Twins to stay 3 1/2 games back in the division race.

View Full Game Coverage

The Angels had spoiled Justin Verlander's superb 11-strikeout start -- he allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings -- by getting to the Houston bullpen, rallying for five runs in the top of the eighth.

Video: LAA@HOU: Verlander sets new career high with 280 K's

"Not a lot went right in the top of the eighth," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "That was as ugly an inning as we've had, and probably the bottom of the eighth was as good an inning as we've had. We had a lot of quality at-bats."

"I went from going to a low to a high," said Verlander, who leads the AL with a career-high 280 strikeouts.

Jose Altuve, who later hit a two-run homer to cap the nine-run outburst, led off the eighth with a walk to jumpstart the Astros' rally.

From there, Marwin Gonzalez walked and Yuli Gurriel, who had three hits, singled. Brian McCann and Evan Gattis hit RBI singles to pull the Astros within 5-4.

"The momentum just kept building with every baserunner," said Gattis, who drove in Houston's first run with a fourth-inning single. "Then, you've looked up and we've gone through the lineup. Everybody knows we're not ever out of games. It's just good to see it."

Video: LAA@HOU: Astros plate 2 on error to take lead in 8th

A throwing error by third baseman Taylor Ward off a ball hit by pinch-hitter Tyler White allowed Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker to score the tying and go-ahead runs.

"I was just trying to get to first base as fast as possible," White said. "I knew we needed a run. We got the job done and got the runs in. Everybody just tried to pass it on to the next guy. We got a lot of guys on base and ended up scoring a lot of runs."

George Springer added a two-run single and Altuve's 13th home run, which brought in Springer, was more than enough insurance runs for Roberto Osuna, who threw a clean ninth inning.

Gurriel, who had two home runs and a career-high seven RBIs on Friday, extended his hitting streak to eight games and is 14-for-32 on the homestand.

Video: LAA@HOU: Gurriel rips an RBI single into left field

The Angels have now allowed double-digit runs in each of the last four games. Mike Trout's 38th home run, a go-ahead three-run jack in the eighth, was his third in as many games.

SOUND SMART
With its 15 strikeouts on Saturday, the Astros' pitching staff set a Major League single-season record with 1,615 strikeouts, eclipsing the previous mark of 1,614 by the Indians in 2017. Earlier, Verlander helped Houston set an MLB record for most strikeouts in a season by a club's starters with 1,069 to eclipse the Tribe's mark of 1,066, also set in '17. More >

Video: LAA@HOU: Astros set single season K record with 1,615

The win pushed Houston (97-57) to 40 games above .500, a mark the Astros have reached in only one other season (1998).

HE SAID IT
"We all see the scoreboard, and every game is worth a ton right now." -- Hinch, on the AL West race

UP NEXT
Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.15 ERA), who started the club's home opener in April, gets the ball for the final regular-season home game against the Angels at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday. Morton, who will be making his 29th start, is five strikeouts shy of 200 on the season. The Halos counter with lefty Tyler Skaggs (8-8, 3.69 ERA).

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Justin Verlander

Verlander helps Astros set 2 MLB K marks

Right-hander fans 11 for AL lead, career high of 280 on season
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros' pitching staff set two single-season Major League strikeout records in Saturday night's 10-5 win over the Angels at Minute Maid Park.

Right-hander Justin Verlander helped Houston establish the record for most strikeouts in a season by a club's starters with 1,069 -- eclipsing the Indians' mark of 1,066 in 2017.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- The Astros' pitching staff set two single-season Major League strikeout records in Saturday night's 10-5 win over the Angels at Minute Maid Park.

Right-hander Justin Verlander helped Houston establish the record for most strikeouts in a season by a club's starters with 1,069 -- eclipsing the Indians' mark of 1,066 in 2017.

View Full Game Coverage

In the ninth inning, the Astros set a record with 1,615 strikeouts as a staff, also previously held by the Indians (1,614 in '17). That mark fell when Roberto Osuna struck out Sherman Johnson for the first out of the ninth.

"For me, I just try to do my part," Verlander said. "As a staff we've been executing some pitches at a high level and been able to get a lot of swings and misses.

"You look at our staff, we have a bunch of guys with power stuff. Then you have [lefty Dallas Keuchel], who also generates swings and misses without power stuff. So all of those guys are able to go out there and give you a chance to win, and give you a chance to dominate. Those numbers pile up over the course of a year."

Video: LAA@HOU: Verlander sets new career high with 280 K's

Verlander, who leads the American League in strikeouts with a career-high 280 after racking up 11 over six strong innings on Saturday, gave the Astros the starters record with a fifth-inning punchout of Taylor Ward for his ninth strikeout of the game. For good measure, Verlander got the next batter, Kaleb Cowart, to strike out swinging to end the inning.

The record was tied when Verlander fanned Andrelton Simmons looking to begin the fifth, an inning in which he struck out the side.

Verlander threw six shutout innings, allowing only one hit and no walks. He leads the AL with 12 double-digit strikeout games. He settled for a no-decision when Francisco Arcia tied it at 1 with an RBI double off reliever Hector Rondon in the Angels' five-run eighth. Houston rallied with nine runs in the bottom half to reduce its magic number for an AL West title to five.

Verlander and teammate Gerrit Cole are running 1-2 in the AL in strikeouts. Cole has 272 after whiffing 12 Angels in Friday's series opener. Astros right-hander Charlie Morton, who will start Sunday's series finale, has 195 strikeouts on the season.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Justin Verlander

McCullers healthy, eager to pitch for Astros

Righty expected to work out of bullpen for Blue Jays series
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. joined the club on Saturday, feeling healthy, and available to pitch in relief as soon as Monday.

McCullers completed his third and final simulated game on Friday at the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. He has no more bullpen sessions scheduled before pitching in a game during the upcoming three-game series against the Blue Jays that begins on Monday at Rogers Centre.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. joined the club on Saturday, feeling healthy, and available to pitch in relief as soon as Monday.

McCullers completed his third and final simulated game on Friday at the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. He has no more bullpen sessions scheduled before pitching in a game during the upcoming three-game series against the Blue Jays that begins on Monday at Rogers Centre.

View Full Game Coverage

"I felt good over the three times I was out there," McCullers said. "There were some ups and downs, but that's part of getting back into pitching shape. I was happy with the way my body responded each time, and the way I looked and felt the last time [on Friday]. I want to pitch again."

Following the series against the Blue Jays, the Astros will close out the regular season with a four-game set against the Orioles starting on Thursday at Camden Yards.

On Friday, the 24-year-old McCullers threw around 25 pitches, amounting to 1 1/3 innings. He said he was pleased with his breaking ball, worked on his fastball and changeup, and he was landing the pitches in the zone to both right-handed and left-handed batters. No Major League starting pitcher throws his curveball at a higher rate than McCullers.

McCullers' velocity was also where he wanted it. His average fastball this season has been 94-95 mph.

McCullers couldn't wait to share the encouraging news with manager AJ Hinch, pitching coach Brent Strom and head athletic trainer Jeremiah Randall.

"I felt really good yesterday," McCullers said. "I was really excited yesterday, I came in immediately and texted AJ, Strommie and Jeremiah. Because that's what we were waiting for. We were waiting for me to feel really good. That was a big step for us yesterday."

Video: HOU@LAD: McCullers leaves game with elbow discomfort

McCullers, a 2017 All-Star, had been on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a muscle strain in his right forearm. He is 10-6 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts with Houston, and he has 138 strikeouts in 126 innings.

"We delayed the timetable a little bit," McCullers said. "But it gave myself the best opportunity to come back and be effective, and be a force for us down the stretch and into the playoffs. I had to wait a little longer than we initially thought, but I'm happy with the way I'm feeling."

Correa eager to return
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who won't play in this weekend's series against the Angels. was subdued on his 24th birthday on Saturday, expressing his desire to finally get his back issue solved and hopefully return to the lineup soon for the final seven games of the regular season.

"I'm trying to get better, healthy," Correa said. "My back just got tied up again and I want to make sure I'm ready to go for the playoffs.

"It's been a rough year for me when it comes to staying on the field, and being healthy out there. It's been the toughest year of my career. When I came back, it's a grind every day. The training room, the weight room. I try to make it feel better. I have to sit this series out to hopefully make me feel better."

Since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 10 with lower back soreness, Correa has not been the same player who was a 2017 All-Star, with only four extra-base hits in 140 plate appearances following his return. He went on the DL on June 26, missing 36 games.

In his fourth Major League season, Correa became the first shortstop in Major League history to reach the 20-home run mark in each of his first three seasons.

"When I'm healthy, I know what kind of player I can be," Correa said.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr.

Defending champion Astros clinch playoff berth

Gurriel hits 2 homers, drives in career-high 7 against Angels
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- On a night the Astros clinched a postseason berth, Yuli Gurriel had a celebratory game with two home runs and a career-high seven RBIs.

The Astros clinched their third playoff spot in four seasons with an 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday at Minute Maid Park. Their magic number to clinch was 1, but Tampa Bay defeated Toronto, forcing Houston to win in order to punch its ticket. The Astros' magic number to clinch the American League West stands at 6, after the A's won in walk-off fashion, 7-6 in 10 innings, against the Twins.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- On a night the Astros clinched a postseason berth, Yuli Gurriel had a celebratory game with two home runs and a career-high seven RBIs.

The Astros clinched their third playoff spot in four seasons with an 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday at Minute Maid Park. Their magic number to clinch was 1, but Tampa Bay defeated Toronto, forcing Houston to win in order to punch its ticket. The Astros' magic number to clinch the American League West stands at 6, after the A's won in walk-off fashion, 7-6 in 10 innings, against the Twins.

View Full Game Coverage

Get new Astros postseason gear

In the Astros' clubhouse after improving their record to 96-57, there was a toast made that involved team owner Jim Crane, president of business operations Reid Ryan, general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager AJ Hinch and the players.

"I'm very happy we were able to make that toast, and we were able to unite at that moment and be able to clinch for the playoffs," said Gurriel, who recorded his first multi-homer game in the Major Leagues.

10 defining moments of 2018

Added Hinch: "It's not the end goal. Our work isn't finished."

Video: LAA@HOU: Springer belts a towering 3-run homer

Gurriel's three hits paced an 11-hit attack that included George Springer's three-run homer in a four-run eighth that concluded the scoring.

Astros heading for ALDS date with Tribe

"I think he was trying to keep up with his brother," said Hinch, making reference to Yuli and Lourdes becoming the first pair of brothers to hit multi-home runs on the same day in the Major Leagues. "We had some fun with him.

Video: Gurriel brothers, Yuli and Lourdes, each hit 2 homers

"It's a big night for him. And to kick start us this way with four in the first was exactly what you need to do when you're in the position where you want to play ahead."

History made as Gurriel Bros. each go deep twice

Gurriel's first-inning grand slam provided all the runs Astros starter Gerrit Cole would need in an impressive outing. The right-hander struck out 12 for an AL-leading 272, overtaking teammate Justin Verlander (269).

Video: LAA@HOU: Cole K's 12 over 7 innings for his 15th win

Cole (15-5) allowed three runs and six hits with no walks over his seven innings.

"I thought I had pretty good command in general," Cole said. "When you have a night like tonight when Yuli erupts, you got to use that to your advantage."

Cole became the 12th-fastest in MLB history to reach 1,000 career strikeouts.

Video: LAA@HOU: Hinch on big games from Gurriel, Cole in win

"I was happy with his stuff," Hinch said. "The strikeout numbers are real."

Gurriel's 11th home run of the season was his third career grand slam and second of the season. He previously accomplished the feat on June 24 against the Royals. The slam was the seventh this season for the Astros, tying a single-season franchise record (2007 and 2001). It traveled a projected 368 feet, with a launch angle of 27 degrees, according to Statcast™.

Video: LAA@HOU: Gurriel swats 2 homers and drives in 7

He added a two-run homer in the third inning off Andrew Heaney, his 12th jack of the season, and logged an RBI single in his third at-bat in the fifth inning against reliever Taylor Cole for a 7-0 lead.

SOUND SMART
Gurriel's seven RBIs are the most for the Astros since J.R. Towles had a club-record eight on Sept. 20, 2007, against the Cardinals.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With a third-inning strikeout of Kaleb Cowart, Cole reached 1,000 career strikeouts. Cole struck out Cowart looking on an 83-mph knuckle curve for the second out. Cole came into the game with 994 strikeouts.

Video: LAA@HOU: Cole K's Cowart for 1,000th career strikeout

"It's special," Cole said. "The guys came over to recognize it."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Angels challenged a tag play at the plate in the eighth after Astros pinch-runner Myles Straw broke for home on a bunt by Jake Marisnick. Straw was ruled safe, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia, suspecting catcher Francisco Arcia may have snuck in a tag on the runner's hand, challenged the call. The ruling, however, stood.

Video: LAA@HOU: Marisnick scores Straw on suicide squeeze

UP NEXT
Verlander (16-9, 2.67 ERA) goes for his 17th win in the middle game against the Angels at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Righty Jaime Barria (10-9, 3.61 ERA) will start for the Halos. Verlander, who can retake the strikeout lead from Cole, has pitched seven innings in each of his past three starts -- all wins -- including an 11-strikeout performance against the D-backs in his last start.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole, Yuli Gurriel

Astros heading for postseason date with Tribe

Houston will have home field for ALDS by winning division title
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Having clinched their third postseason berth in four seasons, the Astros are almost certain to face the Indians in the American League Division Series in two weeks in a matchup between the two previous AL pennant winners.

The Indians, having wrapped up the AL Central title earlier this week, will play the AL West champion, which is the Astros' to lose. The defending World Series champions entered the weekend with a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place A's with 10 games remaining in the division (magic number is six following Friday's 11-3 win over the Angels).

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Having clinched their third postseason berth in four seasons, the Astros are almost certain to face the Indians in the American League Division Series in two weeks in a matchup between the two previous AL pennant winners.

The Indians, having wrapped up the AL Central title earlier this week, will play the AL West champion, which is the Astros' to lose. The defending World Series champions entered the weekend with a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place A's with 10 games remaining in the division (magic number is six following Friday's 11-3 win over the Angels).

View Full Game Coverage

Get new Astros postseason gear

Because they have a better overall record, the Astros would have home-field advantage for a best-of-five ALDS against Cleveland. Games 1 and 2 would be at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 5 and 6, Games 3 and 4 would be at Progressive Field on Oct. 8 and 9, and a Game 5 would take place on Oct. 11 in Houston.

The Astros went 4-3 against the Indians this season, with all seven meetings coming in a 10-day span in May. Houston won two of three at home on May 18-20 and split a four-game series in Cleveland on May 24-27. The Astros blew an 8-3 lead after eight innings in a 10-9 loss in 14 innings on May 27.

Houston hit .293 with 45 runs scored in seven games against the Indians, averaging 6.4 runs per game. The Astros had a team ERA of 3.95 in seven games against the Indians, allowing 29 runs (4.1 runs per game).

Video: HOU@CLE: Altuve homers in 4-hit game, scores 3 runs

Jose Altuve feasted on Indians pitching this year, hitting .469 (15-for-32), with Yuli Gurriel (.355) and George Springer (.323) also raking against the Tribe. Marwin Gonzalez (5-for-22) and Carlos Correa (7-for-30) scuffled against the Indians. On the mound, Charlie Morton is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts, while Dallas Keuchel made two starts against Cleveland this year, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA.

Justin Verlander, the Astros' likely Game 1 starter, didn't face the Indians in the regular season, but he has tons of experience against them from his 13 years in Detroit. He has nine more losses in his career against the Tribe than any other team, going 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA in 52 starts.

The Indians are second in the big leagues in stolen-base attempts, which means controlling the running game will be a key. Strong-armed catcher Martin Maldonado was acquired in July with perhaps this matchup in mind, along with the speedy Red Sox.

The Astros have a much better pitching rotation on paper, but an Indians rotation that includes Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer will be a challenge. Bauer is 7-0 with a 3.18 ERA in eight career starts against Houston, striking out 68 batters in 51 innings. Kluber is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA.

Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .346 against the Astros this year, but Houston has held Jose Ramirez (.259) and Francisco Lindor (3-for-31) in check.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Justin Verlander

30 best games of '18 -- 1 player from each team

MLB.com @RichardJustice

We went in search of magic. That is, players rising up and doing something they may remember forever. Every team, all 30 of them, has moments like this.

From bunches of home runs to bunches of strikeouts, from household names to players you may not have heard of before, these are players that become part of the fabric of a season.

We went in search of magic. That is, players rising up and doing something they may remember forever. Every team, all 30 of them, has moments like this.

From bunches of home runs to bunches of strikeouts, from household names to players you may not have heard of before, these are players that become part of the fabric of a season.

Here we go: 30 special individual performances for 30 teams:

American League East

Blue Jays: Yangervis Solarte
Date: May 3 vs. CLE
The infielder collected five hits, including a decisive 11th-inning grand slam, in a 13-11 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field. He became the second player in the live-ball era with at least five hits, including an extra-inning grand slam. The other was Jim Rice in 1984.

Orioles: Manny Machado
Date: 
May 11 vs. TB
Machado hit two home runs, including a seventh-inning grand slam, and drove in six as the Orioles beat the Rays, 9-4, at Camden Yards. At 25, he became the youngest Orioles player to hit 150 home runs. "Words can't even describe how exciting that it is, reaching that milestone," he said.

Rays: Ji-Man Choi
Date: 
Sept. 10 vs. CLE
Choi's two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning produced a 6-5 victory over the Indians. In one swing, he kept Tampa Bay's postseason hopes alive and extended its home winning streak to 12 games.

Video: NYY@BOS: Betts his slam, collects four hits vs. Yanks

Red Sox: Mookie Betts
Date: 
April 10 vs. NYY
Betts scored five runs and collected four hits, including two doubles and a grand slam, in a 14-1 victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park.

Yankees: Luis Severino
Date:
May 2 at HOU
Severino struck out 10 Astros in the first complete game of his career, a 4-0 victory at Minute Maid Park. "I wouldn't want to be in the box facing him," teammate Giancarlo Stanton said. "He's going to pound the zone at 100 mph, and if you look on time for that, you're going to get that 90-mph slider. It's exactly what we needed tonight and another par-for-the-course outing for him."

AL CENTRAL

Video: Must C Clutch: Lindor homers twice to hold off Twins

Indians: Francisco Lindor
Date:
May 31 at MIN
Lindor had two doubles, two homers and four RBIs in a 9-8 win over the Twins at Target Field. He joined Adrian Beltre, Jim Edmonds and Rafael Palmeiro as the only players since 1908 to have two such games in the same season.

Royals: Jorge Lopez
Date:
Sept. 8 at MIN
Lopez took a perfect game into the ninth inning in the seventh start of his career. The 25-year-old right-hander walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, then allowed a hit before departing in what would be a 4-1 win over the Twins at Target Field.

Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
Date:
Aug. 13 vs. CWS
Castellanos went 5-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs in a 9-5 victory over the White Sox. Among the hits was a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning off Jeanmar Gomez.

Twins: Eddie Rosario
Date:
June 3 vs. CLE
With his father sitting a few feet from home plate, Eddie Rosario homered three times, including a two-run walk-off shot that gave the Twins a 7-5 victory over the Indians at Target Field. "It was Rosie's day," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I've seen a lot of good days in the big leagues. But I don't know if I've seen one that was more dramatic than that as far as the first inning all the way through the end."

White Sox: Matt Davidson
Date: 
March 29 at KC
Davidson became the fourth player to hit three home runs on Opening Day as the White Sox rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Royals, 14-7, at Kauffman Stadium. "What an incredible day he had," teammate James Shields said. "Really happy for him. He works his butt off every day, and to have a day like that is pretty special."

AL WEST

Video: LAA@NYY: Trout goes 5-for-5 with career-high 4 XBHs

Angels: Mike Trout
Date:
May 26 at NYY
Trout had a home run, three doubles and an infield single in an 11-4 victory at Yankee Stadium. "He's an unbelievable player and I think he showed that tonight," Yankees starter Sonny Gray said. "He put some good swings on the ball and in the fourth, he hit that homer. That was ultimately the icing on the cake for me."

Astros: Gerrit Cole
Date:
 May 4 at ARI
Cole struck out 16 D-backs in a one-hit complete game, an 8-0 victory at Chase Field. He finished it with a 99-mph fastball to strike out Jarrod Dyson. "Wow," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It's hard to describe. It's an incredible display of pitching."

Athletics: Sean Manaea
Date:
April 21 vs. BOS
Manaea threw the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history in a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox at the Coliseum. "I've caught a lot of great pitchers in this game," A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy said, "and that was the most well-pitched, well-executed game I've ever had behind the plate."

Video: Paxton tosses sixth no-hitter in Mariners history

Mariners: James Paxton
Date:
May 8 at TOR
Paxton returned to his native Canada to no-hit the Blue Jays, 5-0, at Rogers Centre. It was the first complete game of his career. "To have it happen in Canada. What are the odds?" Paxton said. "Just very special."

Rangers: Rougned Odor
Date:
July 28 at HOU
Odor hit two home runs and had a double and two singles in a 7-3 victory at Minute Maid Park. "We talked about finding his swagger, getting his swagger back, getting that confidence back," then-Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Know that you're a really good player and just go show it and stay focused on every single pitch."

NL EAST

Video: Must C Classic: Acuna's 2 homers make history

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Date:
Aug. 14 vs. MIA
Acuna homered twice and added a single in a 10-6 victory over the Marlins at SunTrust Park. The 20-year-old hit the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning to become the youngest player ever to homer in five consecutive games. "He's the best player I've ever seen," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "He's just unbelievable."

Marlins: Jose Urena
Date:
Aug. 19 at WSH
Urena retired the final 16 Nationals in a complete-game 12-1 victory at Nationals Park. "You can just see the fire in his eyes every time he's out there," Marlins shortstop JT Riddle said.

Video: NYM@CHC: deGrom K's 10, notches 2 hits vs. Cubs

Mets: Jacob deGrom
Date:
Aug. 28 at CHC
deGrom struck out 10 Cubs and allowed one run in an eight-inning masterpiece of a loss at Wrigley Field. "The guy is as advertised," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's different. That's another level of stuff."

Nationals: Max Scherzer
Date:
May 6 vs. PHI
Scherzer struck out 15 Phillies in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-4 victory at Nationals Park. He was the first pitcher in history to get 15 strikeouts in 6 1/3 (or fewer) innings. "He doesn't slow," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. "I watch him in the gym. I watch him watch video. His mind is constantly going and constantly learning."

Phillies: Odubel Herrera
Date:
June 22 at WSH
Herrera scored four runs and had four hits, including a homer, in a 12-2 victory at Nationals Park. "It's simply incredible what he can do," teammate Zach Eflin said. "The thing with Odubel is that he can shake off anything at any given time. He can look like he's struggling and next pitch he sends it 440 feet."

NL CENTRAL

Video: MIL@CIN: Yelich records cycle with 6 hits, shows arm

Brewers: Christian Yelich
Date:
Aug. 29 at CIN
Yelich hit for the cycle -- the first of two Yelich cycles this season -- and had six hits in all in a 13-12, 10-inning victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. "I've never seen a game like that," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's coming up there and you're thinking he can't do it again, and he does it again."

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
Date:
July 20 at CHC
Carpenter became the second player in MLB history to hit three homers and two doubles in a game. He did it all in in six innings in an 18-5 victory at Wrigley Field. "I'm having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this," Carpenter said.

Cubs: David Bote
Date:
Aug. 12 vs. WSH
Bote delivered a pinch-hit grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning at Wrigley Field to turn a 3-0 loss into a 4-3, walk-off victory over the Nationals. He became the first Cubs player to hit a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam since Earl Averill in 1959.

Pirates: Jameson Taillon
Date:
April 8 vs. CIN
Taillon tossed a one-hitter and drove in Pittsburgh's first run in a 5-0 victory over over the Reds at PNC Park. It was Pittsburgh's first complete-game one-hitter since A.J. Burnett shut out the Cubs in 2012. "This guy, he's special," Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said.

Reds: Scooter Gennett
Date:
May 26 at COL
Gennett collected five hits -- a first-inning home run and four singles -- and was part of a game-ending defensive play to close out a 6-5 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field.

NL WEST

D-Backs: A.J. Pollock
Date:
April 30 vs. LAD
Pollock hit three home runs in an 8-5 win at Chase Field. "I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now," he said. "I don't know. Some days it just works."

Video: Must C Classic: Puig crushes 3 homers vs. Cardinals

Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
Date:
Sept. 15 at STL
Puig launched three home runs and drove in seven runs in a 17-4 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Puig explained his power surge as only he can: He said the grasshoppers that have swarmed Busch Stadium have gotten him going. He said he considered eating one or two. Manager Dave Roberts had a better explanation. "He's focused and he understands the importance of every pitch," he said. "And when he does that, he's as good as anybody in baseball."

Giants: Andrew McCutchen
Date:
April 7 vs. LAD
McCutchen went 6-for-7 with four RBIs, including a walk-off home run, in a 14-inning, 7-5 victory over the Dodgers at AT&T Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy called the victory "epic" and added, "It's one of those Giants-Dodgers games that will be talked about."

Padres: Christian Villanueva
Date:
April 3 vs. COL
Villanueva belted three home runs in his 14th career game in an 8-4 victory over the Rockies at Petco Park. "I have a lot of dreams, I have a lot of goals, and I think, little by little, I'm starting to reach them," Villanueva said.

Rockies: DJ LeMahieu
Date:
June 28 at SF
LeMahieu's go-ahead home run at AT&T Park probably did more than give the Rockies a 9-8 victory. It came at a time when they were in fourth place in the NL West and had fallen eight games off the pace. There was speculation they might sell at the Trade Deadline. The Rockies won 44 of their next 69 games. Only the Cubs did better in that time.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

10 defining moments of Astros' 2018 season

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- There were memorable individual performances, dazzling defense plays and plenty of clutch hits. The Astros' magical ride through the 2018 season began with a leadoff homer by George Springer on Opening Day and continued through their playoff-clinching win, raising expectations that another World Series championship could be near.

The Astros hope to cap an unforgettable season by becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back World Series titles, but they'll have to navigate through the rough-and-tumble American League playoffs to get it done. The story of how the Astros reached the postseason for the third time in four years is already one Astros fans will cherish.

HOUSTON -- There were memorable individual performances, dazzling defense plays and plenty of clutch hits. The Astros' magical ride through the 2018 season began with a leadoff homer by George Springer on Opening Day and continued through their playoff-clinching win, raising expectations that another World Series championship could be near.

The Astros hope to cap an unforgettable season by becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back World Series titles, but they'll have to navigate through the rough-and-tumble American League playoffs to get it done. The story of how the Astros reached the postseason for the third time in four years is already one Astros fans will cherish.

Get Astros 2018 playoff gear

Here's a look at the Astros' Top 10 moments from the '18 season:

Video: LAA@HOU: Cole K's 12 over 7 innings for his 15th win

• Astros 11, Angels 3 on Sept. 21: Yuli Gurriel hit a grand slam and a two-run home run and drove in seven runs to lead the Astros to a playoff spot for the third time in four years. Gurriel's first-inning grand slam provided all the runs Astros starter Gerrit Cole would need. The right-hander struck out 12 for an AL-leading 272, overtaking teammate Justin Verlander (269). Gurriel's seven RBIs were the most for the Astros since J.R. Towles had a club-record eight RBIs on Sept. 20, 2007, against the Cardinals.

Video: HOU@TEX: Springer starts season with a homer again

• Astros 4, Rangers 1 on March 29: Springer made history with his first swing of the season by hitting a leadoff homer. Springer achieved his feat on the third pitch of the game, belting a leadoff homer to start a season for the second year in a row and leading the Astros to an Opening Day victory over the Rangers. Springer hit a 2-0 pitch from Rangers starter Cole Hamels into the right-field seats. In doing so, he became the first player to hit a leadoff home run in the first inning on Opening Day in back-to-back seasons.

Video: Must C Curious: Astros win after Padres drop popup

• Astros 1, Padres 0 on April 7: After struggling to find a clutch hit against the Padres, the Astros came away with an unlikely walk-off win in the 10th inning when the Padres couldn't catch a popup by Alex Bregman with two outs, allowing Derek Fisher to score from second base. Padres reliever Phil Maton coaxed Bregman into swinging at a 3-2 cutter high in the strike zone and got him to pop it up in the infield. Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer charged in and overran the ball, allowing it to drop behind him as Fisher crossed home with the winning run.

Video: HOU@ARI: Cole K's 16 D-backs in 16 seconds

• Astros 8, D-backs 0 on May 4: Cole pitched one of the most dominant games in Astros history by striking out a career-high 16 batters while giving up only a fifth-inning double for his first career shutout and first career one-hitter. That gave him 77 strikeouts in his first seven starts with the Astros, a Major League record for a pitcher in his first seven starts with a new team. His final pitch of the game was 99 mph.

Video: HOU@OAK: Springer picks up 6 hits vs. the A's

• Astros 16, A's 2 on May 7: Springer spearheaded the Astros' biggest offensive outburst of the season, tying a franchise record by going 6-for-6, including a three-run homer, to back a strong outing from starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Springer, whose batting average jumped to .292 from .264, joined Hall of Famer Joe Morgan as the only Astros player to have six hits in a game. Morgan achieved his feat on July 8, 1965, in a 12-inning game, making Springer the only player in Astros history to get six hits in a nine-inning game.

Video: HOU@LAA: Verlander K's Ohtani for 2,500th strikeout

• Astros 2, Angels 0 on May 16: On a night in which he notched his 2,500th career strikeout, Verlander threw a 118-pitch five-hit shutout in Anaheim, lowering his ERA to 1.05 after 10 starts. Verlander retired Mike Trout to end a threat in the eighth inning. Verlander completed the ninth inning for his eighth career shutout, his first since 2015. He struck out Shohei Ohtani for No. 2,500.

Video: Must C Consecutive: Astros' back-to-back-to-back HRs

• Astros 5, Rays 1 on June 20: Springer, Bregman and Jose Altuve walloped back-to-back-to-back homers off Tampa Bay starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, sending the Astros to their 13th win in 14 games. The home run barrage came two innings after Altuve tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth. It was the sixth time in franchise history that the Astros hit three consecutive homers and the first since Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee did it against Brewers pitcher Carlos Villanueva on May 2, 2008.

Video: Must C Conclusion: Astros win it in odd fashion in 11

• Astros 6, A's 5 in 10 innings on July 10: The Astros won on a bizarre walk-off when Bregman hit a dribbler and thought it rolled foul. He then realized it rolled back into fair territory and saw A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy field the ball and attempt to tag him. Bregman hopped backward as a reaction and watched Lucroy drop the ball. He hustled down the first-base line and was plunked in the helmet by Lucroy's attempted throw to first. The A's catcher's throw ricocheted into right field and allowed Kyle Tucker to score from second base.

Video: Must C Clutch: Gonzalez belts go-ahead 3-run homer

• Astros 3, Giants 1 on Aug. 6: Down to their final out, the Astros pulled out an unlikely win when Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run homer on a two-seam fastball from Giants left-hander Will Smith and sent it into the left-field seats for a stunning comeback. For the switch-hitting Gonzalez, it was a rare homer from the right side of the plate. The homer made a winner out of Roberto Osuna in his first game since being acquired from Toronto. He threw five pitches in a quiet eighth inning after seven one-run innings from starter Charlie Morton.

Video: HOU@OAK: Verlander K's six, earns 200th career win

• Astros 9, A's 4 on Aug. 19: Verlander allowed four runs and seven hits, including three homers, in 5 1/3 innings but still picked up his 200th career win. Verlander became the 114th pitcher in Major League history to reach 200 wins, joining Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia as the only active pitchers to reach the milestone. After the game, Cole gave a speech in the clubhouse recapping Verlander's career, and other teammates sprayed him with champagne.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Alex Bregman, Gerrit Cole, George Springer, Justin Verlander

History made as Gurriel Bros. homer twice

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Yuli Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took the field in two different countries Friday night, roughly 1,500 miles apart. But each of them did what they've done ever since they grew up together in Cuba: Hit with authority.

Each of the Gurriel brothers knocked a pair of home runs, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau made them the first brothers in history with multi-homer performances on the same day. It was a special night for the Gurriels, who starred for the Cuban National team before defecting to the United States in February 2016.

Yuli Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took the field in two different countries Friday night, roughly 1,500 miles apart. But each of them did what they've done ever since they grew up together in Cuba: Hit with authority.

Each of the Gurriel brothers knocked a pair of home runs, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau made them the first brothers in history with multi-homer performances on the same day. It was a special night for the Gurriels, who starred for the Cuban National team before defecting to the United States in February 2016.

The younger of the two, Lourdes Jr., kicked things off for the Blue Jays with a mammoth first-inning dinger off Rays opener Diego Castillo. Gurriel squared up Castillo's 99.1-mph fastball and drove the pitch a projected 450 feet over the center-field wall at Rogers Centre, marking the longest homer hit off a pitch 99 mph or faster since Statcast™ began tracking homer distances in 2015. It was also the fastest pitch homered on by a Blue Jays player in 2018.

Video: TB@TOR: Gurriel launches solo homer to center in 1st

Lourdes, who broke out of a tough slump with a game-tying, two-run tater in his final plate appearance against the Rays on Thursday, homered in his third straight at-bat with a fourth-inning blast off Tampa Bay's Jalen Beeks. Lourdes' second blast was another shot to center field, this time measuring a projected 415 feet per Statcast™.

Video: TB@TOR: Gurriel smacks 2nd homer of game to center

"I knew when I came back from my injury, sooner or later, I was going to start getting the groove back a little bit," Lourdes told MLB.com on Friday. "I didn't lose confidence at all. I knew I had it in me and I just kept working hard. I was really confident in myself and I see the results now."

Not to be outdone, Yuli began his own assault on the fences shortly after Lourdes' second tater with a first-inning grand slam off Angels starter Andrew Heaney. Yuli's first blast could hardly have been more different than his brother's pair, tucking around the right-field foul pole at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros' first baseman followed up with a two-run homer to left off Heaney in the third, giving him a career-high six RBIs. In the fifth, he added to that total with an RBI single.

• Defending champion Astros clinch playoff berth

Video: LAA@HOU: Gurriel swats 2 homers and drives in 7

"I'm very happy for us," Yuli said after the Astros clinched a spot in the postseason. "I didn't know we had made a record. And he's having a great season. It was great hearing the news. Sometimes I have good games, sometimes he has a good game, and for us to have a great game together, it was really special."

All told, the Gurriel brothers tallied four homers and nine RBIs in their first six plate appearances of the night, surely making both their family and countrymen proud back in Cuba. Lourdes' teammate and fellow Cuban Kendrys Morales was first to let him know what his older brother was up to in Texas.

"He told me, 'Hey, congratulations,'" said Gurriel. "I just said, 'Thank you.' I thought it was because I hit two homers, but then he told me it was because my brother also hit two homers. I'm happy for him and I'm happy for me, as well."

The Astros made sure Yuli knew what was happening north of the border as well.

"The players were telling me, every time he hit a home run, 'He hit one. You got to do it,'" Yuli said. "The second one happened: 'You got to do it.'"

The Gurriels' big night sets the stage for next week's three-game set between the Astros and Blue Jays beginning Monday in Toronto. That will mark the first time the brothers will face each other on opposite sides of the field since the Blue Jays called up Lourdes in April.

"I'm very happy," Lourdes said, "but I'm also curious, because it's going to be the first time that I'm going to play against him. That's never happened before. It's a little bit weird. I'll see how I'm going to feel that day."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Correa will miss Angels series to rest back

Astros shortstop expected to play during upcoming road trips
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who is still bothered by lower back soreness, won't play during this weekend's series against the Angels at Minute Maid Park. But he is expected to play during next week's road trips to Toronto and Baltimore to conclude the regular season.

"Carlos is still not right," manager AJ Hinch said before Friday night's game. "He's played through it and it hasn't worked out.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who is still bothered by lower back soreness, won't play during this weekend's series against the Angels at Minute Maid Park. But he is expected to play during next week's road trips to Toronto and Baltimore to conclude the regular season.

"Carlos is still not right," manager AJ Hinch said before Friday night's game. "He's played through it and it hasn't worked out.

View Full Game Coverage

"I'm not going to put a timetable on it until I know our situation, I know his situation, where we're at. But most importantly, we need him to feel better for him to be the player he is."

Correa, who was at the ballpark on Friday, has played in 34 games since returning from the disabled list and he has struggled at the plate. He has only four extra-base hits in 140 plate appearances since coming off the DL. Correa, an All-Star in 2017, was on the DL from June 26-Aug. 10, missing 36 games.

Video: SEA@HOU: Correa nabs Cruz after overturned call

"He's a perfectionist by nature, so performance wise, he always wants to be elite," Hinch said. "From a comfort standpoint, he hasn't looked comfortable.

"He's been able to maintain that defensively, but it looks like he's had a little bit of a governor on his swing when he's been at-bat. I haven't seen him let it go since his time off the DL."

Correa's fielding hasn't been affected by his sore back. His .984 fielding percentage is third best in franchise history for a single season, trailing only Adam Everett (.990 in 2006) and Roger Metzger (.986 in 1976).

Hinch on Friday said the team doctors and training staff believe that Correa will be where he wants to be at the end of this rest period.

For the season, Correa is batting .238 in .390 at-bats, with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs. He went 0-for-5 in the series against the Mariners. His 11 sacrifice flies lead the Majors. Last year, Correa batted .315 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs.

Alex Bregman started at shortstop on Friday. Hinch said Marwin Gonzalez will also play short this weekend, freeing outfield spots for Tony Kemp and Jake Marisnick.

McCullers nearing return
Lance McCullers Jr. pitched a simulated game on Friday at the Astros' Spring Training facility, effectively pitching 1 1/3 innings and coming out of it feeling good. The right-hander will rejoin the club on Saturday and he could get two relief appearances next week during the final week of the regular season.

"He threw all his pitches, his velocity was still hovering in the same area," Hinch said. "I know he said he feels better. Whatever a good step forward means, it's a nice accomplishment for him to throw an outing pain free.

"So the plan is, some time on the road trip, we'll get him in on some competition."

Houston opens a three-game series against the Blue Jays on Monday at Rogers Centre, followed by four games against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

McCullers has been on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a muscle strain in his right forearm. Friday was his third simulated game in his rehab at West Palm Beach, Fla. McCullers threw to a batter, sat down for 5-10 minutes, before throwing a full inning. On Tuesday, McCullers' simulated game consisted of around 30 pitches.

"I'd like to see him pitch and pitch well, and see if he feels like himself," Hinch said. "And we want to see the spin on his breaking ball, we want to see some velocity. We want to see if he can be effective as a Major League pitcher."

The earliest McCullers would pitch for the Astros is Monday. His first outing will be dictated by game situations.

"I will lay out some plans for him over those seven days, and we also need to win the division," Hinch said.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr.

James has impressed in September

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

Rowdy Tellez broke out as one of the game's better first-base prospects with 23 homers and a .917 OPS as a 21-year-old in Double-A in 2016, but he produced a total of just 19 homers with a .692 OPS during the next two seasons in Triple-A. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays called him up on Sept. 4 to get a glimpse of how he might fit in their future.

Rowdy Tellez broke out as one of the game's better first-base prospects with 23 homers and a .917 OPS as a 21-year-old in Double-A in 2016, but he produced a total of just 19 homers with a .692 OPS during the next two seasons in Triple-A. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays called him up on Sept. 4 to get a glimpse of how he might fit in their future.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Since then, Tellez (No. 28 on the Blue Jays Top 30) has been Toronto's best hitter. He became the first player in the live-ball era to deliver extra-base hits in each of his three plate appearances, and he's batting .385/.400/.744 with a pair of home runs through 40 trips to the plate. It's a small sample size and he has been used mostly in a platoon role facing right-handers, but he definitely has boosted his prospect status.

Signed for a well above-slot $850,000 as a 30th-rounder in 2013, Tellez is the 12th big leaguer to come out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High, also the alma mater of J.D. Davis, David Freitas, David Hernandez and the No. 4 overall pick in this year's Draft, Nick Madrigal. He offers an intriguing combination of left-handed power potential and plate discipline, even if his home run numbers dropped the last two years.

Toronto doesn't have an obvious opening for Tellez in its 2019 lineup, so he may have to swallow some more time in Triple-A. The Jays' two best hitters this season have been Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales, who occupy the two positions (first base and DH) that Tellez can play and are both under contract for next year.

Video: TB@TOR: Tellez smacks a 2-run homer to right-center

Even if his immediate future isn't clear, Tellez's present is spectacular. Here are four other September callups with notable performances:

Josh James, RHP, Astros
After leading the Minors in strikeout rate (13.5), the Astros No. 6 prospect has blown away hitters in the Majors as well. He has 24 strikeouts in 16 innings, along with a 2.81 ERA, a win in two starts and a pair of holds in two relief appearances. He has averaged 97 mph with his fastball and 86 mph with his slider, and it would behoove the Astros to find space on their postseason roster to include him.

Video: SEA@HOU: James strikes out 7 in 1st career win

Francisco Mejia, C, Padres
The top-rated catcher (No. 21 overall) on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, Mejia homered twice in his first start for the Padres, who acquired him from the Indians in July in exchange for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Curiously for a player who needs to polish his receiving and a team that needs to figure out if it would be better off making the most out of his bat by moving its No. 3 prospect to a less challenging position, he has started only five more games since behind the plate. He's hitting .242/.306/.545 with three homers in 36 plate appearances.

Video: Must C Clutch: Galvis ties it, Mejia's slam wins it

Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays
Toronto's No. 10 prospect has a pair of 10-strikeout efforts in three September starts, including one with five shutout innings against the Yankees, and a 3.86 ERA, 23 whiffs and a .186 opponent average in 16 2/3 innings this month. He works mainly with a low-90s fastball with life and a low-80s slider that has been absolutely filthy. According to FanGraphs, his slider has been worth 3.3 runs above average per 100 pitches -- which would make it the second-most valuable slider behind only Blake Snell's (3.8) if he had enough innings to qualify.

Video: TOR@NYY: Reid-Foley fans 10, tosses 5 shutout innings

Christin Stewart, OF, Tigers
Stewart has slammed 83 homers in the Minors during the last three seasons, and he hit the first two of his big league career as part of a six-RBI night against the Royals. The Tigers' No. 6 prospect's penchant for drawing walks also has translated, as he has six in 46 plate appearances while batting .256/.370/.436. He should be a regular part of the Tigers' 2019 lineup as a left fielder/DH.

Video: KC@DET: Stewart belts his 1st two career home runs

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Astros, Round Rock announce Triple-A affiliation

Agreement is for four years; Express unveil new uniforms, logo
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- The afternoon rain that forced the festivities indoors at Dell Diamond on Thursday evening did little to dampen the long-awaited announcement that the Astros had reached a four-year agreement with the Round Rock Express to be their new Triple-A affiliate.

The move had long been rumored since Reid Ryan, who founded the Express in 2000, became the Astros' president of business operations in 2013, with his father -- Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan -- following him to Houston shortly after. The four-year contract between the Astros and the Express is the longest allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the enthusiasm on both sides suggests this will be a long-term relationship.

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- The afternoon rain that forced the festivities indoors at Dell Diamond on Thursday evening did little to dampen the long-awaited announcement that the Astros had reached a four-year agreement with the Round Rock Express to be their new Triple-A affiliate.

The move had long been rumored since Reid Ryan, who founded the Express in 2000, became the Astros' president of business operations in 2013, with his father -- Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan -- following him to Houston shortly after. The four-year contract between the Astros and the Express is the longest allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the enthusiasm on both sides suggests this will be a long-term relationship.

Round Rock served as Houston's Double-A affiliate from 2000-04 and then as its Triple-A affiliate from 2005-10. The Astros' Triple-A affiliate had been in Fresno for the past four seasons (2015-18). The Express were founded as a Double-A franchise in 2000 by Ryan Sanders Baseball, a group made up of Nolan Ryan, his sons Reid and Reese, Houston businessman Don Sanders and his sons, Bret and Brad.

"Everybody's kind of known we were going to try to come back over here, but we wanted to respect the process because all of the other teams, both Major League and Minor League, are going through their process," Reid Ryan said. "We didn't want to take away from anybody else."

More than 600 fans RSVP'd for Thursday's announcement, which was originally scheduled for the infield at Dell Diamond. In addition to announcing a deal with the Astros after eight years as the Rangers' Triple-A club, the Express unveiled new uniforms and a 20-year anniversary logo.

Tweet from @RRExpress: 👀https://t.co/lJu3ZH8l3u pic.twitter.com/Si1cripe3J

"We're really excited," Reese Ryan said. "I've got a deep history with the Astros, and it's good to be a part of what Reid and everybody in Houston created, and to have these folks come through Round Rock on their way to Houston, we couldn't be more excited."

In addition to being considered one of the top Minor League venues in the country, Dell Diamond is only 170 miles from Houston, which will make shuffling players between Triple-A and the Houston much easier. The Express averaged 8,809 fans per game this season, which was the third-highest average in Minor League Baseball. The Astros' Double-A team is in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is only 220 miles from Houston.

"It makes it easier on all of our [Minor League] rovers, our coaches, our player development people," Reid Ryan said. "It also makes it easier for us in Houston when we need a player. The Hooks and Express are going to be close if we need one of them to get to the Astros quickly. There's a ton of development reasons this works for us, and also a ton of marketing reasons in continuing to grow our fan base."

Round Rock president Chris Almendarez, a Houston native who grew up cheering the Astros, flashed some Astros socks and smiled from ear to ear talking about the new affiliation.

"Growing up in Houston and being a diehard Astros fan for most of my life and playing baseball at the University of Houston, you talk about dreams come true," he said. "Nolan and I share the same birthdate, so Nolan has been my childhood idol since I was 7 years old. … To get back and connect with Reid and be able to wear the Astros shirt is a very exciting day."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros