HOUSTON -- Astros manager Dusty Baker, still wearing his full uniform, made his way around the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, giving knuckles and quick hugs as he passed each locker. It was a show of thanks for a juggernaut Houston team that plowed through a 162-game schedule and wrapped up the top seed in the American League.
The Astros left the ballpark after Wednesday afternoon’s 3-2 win over the Phillies in the regular-season finale realizing the job isn’t finished. In fact, it’s just starting. Baker's club, which went 106-56, will have five days off before hosting either the No. 5-seeded Mariners or the No. 4-seeded Blue Jays in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
“Hey man, we’re going to the postseason,” Baker said. “The official season is over. It’s a long road and a lot of work, but a lot of satisfaction at the end there. We had some guys that had some outstanding years, and we’re looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”
Here are a few milestones the Astros reached on Wednesday:
Valdez reaches 200 innings
While Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander led the AL in wins (18), ERA (1.75), WHIP (0.83), opponents’ OPS (.497) and opponents’ average (.186), it was Framber Valdez who led the AL in innings pitched with 201 1/3 after throwing five scoreless frames on Wednesday. He struck out 10 batters, giving him 194 overall.
“I feel very happy to reach 201 innings,” Valdez said. “Thank you for the team that helped me a ton to be able to get there. I feel very proud just to continue working, and hopefully, it’s something I can continue doing.”
Valdez went 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and a Major League-best 26 quality starts over 31 outings. He had an MLB-record 25 consecutive quality starts from April 25-Sept. 18 and he allowed only 11 homers (0.49 per nine innings).
“He pitched great all year,” Baker said. “We were just hoping that he’d get the 17th win today. It looked a little shaky at the end [of the game], but we got out of it. He only had a couple of bad starts all year long. He was as consistent as anybody in the league, and for him to win 17 and J.V. to win 18, that's a pretty good 1-2 punch. I’m proud of these guys and how they’ve worked.”
Stanek sets reliever ERA record
Astros reliever Ryne Stanek worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, finishing the season with a 1.15 ERA. That set a franchise single-season record for the lowest ERA by a relief pitcher. The previous mark was 1.50, set by Will Harris in 2019.
“It's pretty cool,” Stanek said. “It’s something I feel like being a reliever, at times, it's a little bit lucky, because one bad day, one bad week can really mess up a year. I think this year, a lot of things, obviously, went right. I feel like I threw the ball pretty good. I had a little bit of fortune on my side. It feels pretty nice.”
Pressly ties Gladding
Closer Ryan Pressly nailed down his 33rd save of the season, extending his career high and giving him 76 saves in an Astros uniform. That ties Fred Gladding for fourth place on Houston’s all-time saves list, trailing only Billy Wagner (225), Dave Smith (199) and Brad Lidge (123).
“Man, growing up I was taught just keep your head down and keep on doing what you need to do, and don’t worry about anything else and everything will fall in place,” Pressly said. “It’s pretty cool. That’s some cool names to be associated with.”
Astros hurlers set record
The Astros posted a 2.90 team ERA for the 2022 season, which is a franchise record for a full season. The only other sub-3.00 ERA in franchise history was 2.66 in 1981, which was a split season because of a players’ strike. Houston played 110 games in the regular season that year. This year's team also had an MLB-leading 2.80 ERA out of the bullpen.
How dominant was the Astros' pitching staff this year? According to a tweet by MLBMetrics, 99.4% of the innings pitched by Houston this year were thrown by a pitcher with an ERA under 4.00.