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First in AL to 70 wins: Here's how Astros did it

Houston's record matches 2017 title team's mark through 110 games
@brianmctaggart
August 2, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Astros became the first team in the American League to reach 70 wins by slamming the Indians, 7-1, on Thursday night at Progressive Field to take two of three games and win a second consecutive road series against a playoff contender. Right-hander Gerrit Cole threw seven solid

CLEVELAND -- The Astros became the first team in the American League to reach 70 wins by slamming the Indians, 7-1, on Thursday night at Progressive Field to take two of three games and win a second consecutive road series against a playoff contender.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole threw seven solid innings to win his ninth consecutive decision, while George Springer and Alex Bregman walloped homers for the Astros, who matched their 2017 World Series championship team for their best record after 110 games (70-40). Houston has won 11 of its last 14.

Box score

“We have got a good demeanor on this club about staying in the moment, staying in the game,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “I applaud our guys for continuing to methodically win series and getting back home in front of our fans.”

Here are three key storylines from the Astros’ victory:

Outfield defense excels

The Astros threw out two runners at the plate, including a 94.5-mph laser throw from shortstop Carlos Correa, on a relay from outfielder Michael Brantley, to get Franmil Reyes -- making his Indians debut -- in the second inning. Brantley fielded a double off the left-field wall from Jason Kipnis and threw a strike to Correa, whose throw covered 201 feet, according to Statcast. Newly acquired catcher Martín Maldonado applied a nice tag.

“Our defense was excellent,” Hinch said. “We made some really big plays, especially early in the game when it was close -- from the relay throw from Brantley to Carlos to Maldy, to [Josh Reddick's] throw. We made plays when they put a little stress on us.”

In the fourth, the Indians had runners at second and third with no outs when Springer made a long run into the gap in right-center to catch a Jose Ramirez ball at the wall. Carlos Santana scored on a sac fly, but the catch likely saved a big inning.

The inning ended moments later when Reddick ran down a Reyes fly ball in right and threw out Yasiel Puig -- also making his Tribe debut -- trying to tag up for a double play.

“It’s always tough with a big power guy like Reyes,” Reddick said. “We’ve been playing pull all day, and it had enough hang time to get under it. Didn’t have time to get behind it, but made sure I slowed down right before I got to it so I didn’t have to lose momentum going forward towards the plate. Just kind of took off a little bit and made sure I was able to shift my feet and make a good throw.

"Tip my cap to Martin, because he stepped up before it got to a short-hop. He knew he had time, and fortunately I got it to him quick enough.”

Cole’s roll continues

Cole (13-5), who entered the game with a Major League-best 212 strikeouts, struck out only four batters, but still held the Indians to one run and four hits. Cole improved to 9-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 13 starts since May 27 -- the longest winning streak of his career, and longest in the Majors since Blake Snell won nine from Aug. 10-Sept. 23 of last year.

“I think it was a credit to their approach,” Cole said. “We got them to swing out of the zone a bunch, but they were able to put it in play. With that said, we had really sharp defense. There was an inning where a few mistakes in a row were bailed out because of George. Carlos made a great throw. The Brantley-Carlos relay was a really, really nice stop. And I feel like Reddick makes that play 10 times out of 10 times, but it was still an amazing play.

“Even though it was tight, we kept making pitches and trying to mix up spots. Although they were putting it in play for the most part, they were off-balance outside of maybe four or five balls.”

Bregman’s big day

Bregman, who slashed .233/.402/.452 with 11 homers and 21 RBIs in July, started August with good results by going 3-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs to reach base five times in a game for the first time in his career. Batting cleanup, it was the first time he had driven in multiple runs since July 2 at Colorado.

“I’m trying to go up there and backspin a baseball, swing at a good pitch,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is always to swing at a good pitch and making sure you hit it hard. I’ve been trying to get a good pitch to hit. Guys did a great job in front of me in the lineup today getting on base. I was fortunate to hit it where they weren’t.”

News of note

• Reddick was ejected in the sixth inning by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza for throwing his batting gloves after slamming his helmet. Reddick thought he had foul-tipped a third strike, but he said postgame the replay showed he was nowhere close.

• The Astros optioned right-handed pitcher Jose Urquidy and outfielder Myles Straw to Triple-A Round Rock and right-hander Bryan Abreu to Double-A Corpus Christi after the game. The moves were made to make room for incoming pitchers Zack Greinke, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini, who were acquired in trades Wednesday and will join the club Friday.

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