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Correa, McCullers return as Astros fall to Jays

Key contributors report feeling good as Houston prepares for ALDS
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

TORONTO -- In their first game since clinching the American League West division title earlier in the day, the Astros rested many of their regular starters and used a steady stream of relief pitchers in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.

The Astros (100-58), who had a five-game winning streak snapped, need two wins in the final four games of the season at Baltimore to match the franchise record for most wins in a season. Before they left Toronto, the Astros held a champagne celebration in the clubhouse for winning the AL West.

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TORONTO -- In their first game since clinching the American League West division title earlier in the day, the Astros rested many of their regular starters and used a steady stream of relief pitchers in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.

The Astros (100-58), who had a five-game winning streak snapped, need two wins in the final four games of the season at Baltimore to match the franchise record for most wins in a season. Before they left Toronto, the Astros held a champagne celebration in the clubhouse for winning the AL West.

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"We're the only team that can repeat, and our team needs to know that," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We're experienced and been through these parties before. It's important for us to have our moment and lock back in. In a week, we're going to play real baseball."

Video: HOU@TOR: Astros celebrate its clinch of the AL West

The series finale at Rogers Centre had no impact in terms of the postseason, but for former All-Stars Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr., it was significant because both are working their way back from injuries. Correa went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, and McCullers threw a scoreless inning in his first action since Aug. 4.

"It's been a long road for me," McCullers said. "I was really excited to be able to pitch and try to contribute to the team again. It's just been nice to be able to be with the boys and celebrate when I'm active. I'm going to be able to help them win and help us win the playoffs."

Video: HOU@TOR: McCullers Jr. strikes out Pillar in the 6th

Correa missed the previous six games with a sore back, the same ailment that put him on the disabled list from June 26-Aug. 9. He struck out in his first at-bat, beat out an infield single in the fourth for an RBI and struck out in the sixth and eighth.

"Definitely my back felt great," said Correa, who will start at shortstop on Thursday at Camden Yards. "I'm looking forward to the series in Baltimore and getting the timing right and getting close to the playoffs."

McCullers threw five fastballs, five curveballs and one changeup. He had been out since suffering a right forearm strain, and the Astros are gauging his readiness to pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason.

Video: HOU@TOR: McCullers Jr. talks Astros clinching AL West

"I felt really good," he said. "I felt like my stuff was moving the way I wanted it to, and I got the results that I wanted as well. My curveball was the best it's been in a long time, my changeup was good and my sinker was moving a lot. I was happy with the way I was attacking the zone. I didn't feel like I was hesitant. I didn't feel nervous or jittery. I felt like I was back on a big league mound facing those hitters."

Hinch said he wanted to see sharpness in his curveball.

"He looked really comfortable," Hinch said. "I think that's the biggest key. Obviously, he knew he was going to pitch today. It's a little different than just getting the call and getting ready. I did like [that] he was able to use all his pitches. He really let it go a little bit today and got up to 94 [mph] and threw a couple of good breaking balls, a good changeup. Good first game."

Five Astros pitchers held the Blue Jays to three hits, with starter Chris Devenski throwing two innings and lefty Cionel Perez throwing three innings.

Video: HOU@TOR: Davis and Kemp turn a 5-4-3 double play

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Astros rookie Myles Straw recorded his first Major League hit when he hit a comebacker to the mound and flew down the first-base line for a single in the fifth inning. Straw made it to first base at a pace of 30.9 feet per second, according to Statcast™, which is above the elite speed threshold. He had another single in the seventh inning and then stole a base.

Video: HOU@TOR: Straw collects 1st MLB knock on infield hit

SOUND SMART
The loss ended the Astros' chances of tying the 2001 Mariners for the best road record since the schedule was expanded to 162 games in 1961. The Astros are 54-23 on the road and were chasing the Mariners' record of 59-22.

HE SAID IT
"There's one team that can repeat, and that's us. We need four celebrations and 11 wins." -- Hinch

Video: HOU@TOR: Broadcast on Astros' back-to-back 100 wins

UP NEXT
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.92 ERA) will make his final start of the regular season when the Astros open a four-game series -- their last before the postseason -- at 6:05 p.m. CT on Thursday against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Right-hander David Hess (3-10, 5.14 ERA) will start for the Orioles.

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, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr.