Defending champion Astros clinch playoff berth
Gurriel hits 2 homers, drives in career-high 7 against Angels
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.
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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.
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Added Hinch: "It's not the end goal. Our work isn't finished."
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.
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"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.
"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."
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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).
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.
"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™.
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.
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.
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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.
"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.
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.