At long last, happy Astros head home

Houston could clinch AL West as early as Saturday

September 15th, 2017

ANAHEIM -- After a grueling three-week stretch in which they played 16 of 19 games on the road -- including three that were relocated to St. Petersburg because of Hurricane Harvey -- the Astros are coming home to stay a while. And they're in the mood to party.

The Astros capped a 10-game road trip by taking two of three games from the Angels, capped by Thursday's 5-2 win at Angel Stadium. The win cut the Astros' magic number to clinch the American League West title to three games, which means they could do it as soon as Saturday against Seattle.

"I think we all just want to finish strong," said pitcher Brad Peacock, who threw six strong innings for his 11th win. "It's getting close, but we've got to stay locked in."

Houston leads the AL West by 14 games over the Angels and 14 1/2 games over the Mariners, but it has other goals. The Astros trail the streaking Indians by 2 1/2 games for the best record in the AL and are five games ahead of the Red Sox for the No. 2 seed in the AL. Those two teams end the season with four games at Fenway Park and could be on a collision course for the AL Division Series.

"We see the prize at the end of the tunnel," closer said. "Other than a division title, we're looking further beyond that. As of right now, we want to be ready to go for October. That's what we're looking forward to right now."

Even though the Astros were scheduled to arrive into Houston at about 7 a.m. CT Friday and play the Mariners that night before a noon CT game Saturday that could be followed by a champagne celebration, being home trumps any scheduling inconveniences.

"We have a great opportunity ahead of us," manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, we want to close this thing out as quickly as possible in front of our home fans, but we've got some work to do. We've got the team that's chasing us behind us, coming in first. This is going to be a rough trip. The next couple of days we're going to play two games in less than 24 hours. It's going to be a lot of baseball, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel if we continue to play well. We need more wins."

The Astros haven't paid too much attention to the Indians, who have won 22 in a row to pass Houston -- and everybody else -- in the AL standings. Houston hasn't ruled out home-field advantage, but clinching its first division title in 16 years is the immediate focus.

"If they don't lose, they're not going to get caught, and they haven't lost in 3 1/2 weeks," Hinch said of Cleveland. "We're not that focused on them. We need to win more games, win our division first and we'll sort out the best record by the end of the year."