TORONTO -- The Astros' bullpen depth was on full display Monday night, with six relievers piecing together four scoreless innings in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays that inched the defending World Series champs closer to another division title.Roberto Osuna, the former Blue Jays closer who was dealt to
TORONTO -- The Astros' bullpen depth was on full display Monday night, with six relievers piecing together four scoreless innings in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays that inched the defending World Series champs closer to another division title.
Roberto Osuna, the former Blue Jays closer who was dealt to the Astros in July, recorded the final out after entering to boos at Rogers Centre as Houston reduced its magic number to clinch the American League West title to two games with its 99th win.
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"It's exciting," Astros reliever Thomas Pressly said. "It's getting down to that point, but we still have business to take care of up here. We're going to go about our own [business] and keep hitting and pitching the way we're supposed to."
Osuna wasn't made available to reporters after the game following his first outing against the team with which he became an All-Star closer. The save was his 19th of the season.
"It was real weird," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Kind of some mixed emotions, but there was a good chance he was going to get it done. I've seen him do it too many times."
The Astros can clinch the AL West on Tuesday with a win vs. Toronto and a loss by the A's, who are 4 1/2 games out in the division but clinched a postseason berth with the Rays' loss to the Yankees. The Astros improved to 17-4 in September and tied a franchise record with their 53rd road win.
Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who was named AL Player of the Week on Monday, had a two-out RBI single in the first inning to score George Springer before Brian McCann and Josh Reddick went back to back off Jays starter Marco Estrada in the second for a 3-0 lead.
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"[Estrada] made some mistakes, and it started with the first pitch of the game," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I think George set the tone and gets up there and hits a bullet right out of the chute, and that kickstarted us to get up there and get a good pitch to hit. You've got to pick some pitch to go after and commit to it."
Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel in the fourth, and Keuchel pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fifth by allowing just one run to preserve the lead. Keuchel (12-11), making perhaps his final regular-season start in an Astros uniform, allowed three runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings.
"Getting out of the fourth and fifth inning was huge," Hinch said. "Just being able to control the innings a little bit to have the lead was a success for him. It could have really imploded if he doesn't make pitches and doesn't keep his composure and get out of the inning as lightly unscathed as he could."
Astros relievers Joe Smith, Will Harris, Tony Sipp, Brad Peacock, Pressly and Osuna held the Jays to four hits in four innings. Hinch has a lot of options to get hitters out with his bullpen depth, which should loom large in October.
"There were some big outs," Hinch said. "It started with Dallas getting out of his mess, and then Will got out of his mess and Tony got out of Will's mess and Osuna got out of his own. There was a lot of good pitching tonight after getting out to the lead. It was a good win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The first four hitters Keuchel faced in fifth inning all reached, but only one scored. The bases were loaded with no outs when Yangervis Solarte hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-3. Keuchel struck out Justin Smoak looking on a close pitch before Randal Grichuk hit into a fielder's choice and Pillar struck out swinging to strand the bases loaded.
"It seems like it was destined to implode right there," Keuchel said. "I was just trying to make as many quality pitches as I could and was fortunate enough to get a few swings and misses and a few soft-contact swings. Those things can go your way real quick or they can go against you real quick. I was fortunate enough to corral it back in and get out of it."
Alex Bregman, who hit an RBI double in the third, has reached base safely in 52 consecutive road games, the longest streak in franchise history, breaking Jeff Bagwell's 51-game road streak set from 1998-99. It is the longest streak in baseball since Derek Jeter posted a 59-game road streak from 2006-07.
HE SAID IT
"Pick your poison. He can go to anybody. He's got trust in everybody down there. Everybody is feeding off each other down there." -- Pressly, on Hinch's bullpen options
The Astros hope to be in position to clinch a division title when hard-throwing rookie Josh James (1-0, 2.81 ERA) makes his third career start (fifth game) in Tuesday's 6:07 p.m. CT game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (3-8, 5.18 ERA) will start for the Jays.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.