Astros clinch postseason berth with 100th win
Magic number to clinch third straight AL West title stands at two
HOUSTON -- Gerrit Cole surpassed 300 strikeouts for the season, the Astros reached 100 wins for the third year in a row and a playoff berth was clinched. It was a magical Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros moved closer to clinching their third consecutive American League West division title behind another stellar outing by Cole and home runs by Yuli Gurriel and José Altuve to polish off a two-game sweep of the Rangers with a 3-2 win.
“If you like winning, 100 three years in a row is a lot,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “I love it for this team and this organization, and it’s a big accomplishment. It’s one step along the way for us in what we’re trying to accomplish this season. I don’t want that to be the high note by any means, but I want to take a moment and congratulate our team and get to the next time and see how many we can win.”
In becoming the first team in the Major Leagues to reach 100 wins this year, the Astros (100-53) trimmed their magic number in the AL West to two games over the second-place A’s. Houston can clinch the division Friday with a win over the Angels and an A’s loss to the Rangers.
The Astros became the sixth team in history to win at least 100 games in three consecutive seasons, joining the 1929-31 Athletics, 1942-44 Cardinals, 1969-71 Orioles, 1997-99 Braves and 2002-04 Yankees. They are three wins shy of their club record of 103, set last year.
“It’s a little crazy,” Altuve said. “My first three years we lost 100 games, and now we’re one of the few teams that are winning three seasons in a row 100 games. I think we deserve it, because the way that we’ve been working hard as a team and as an organization, to be to this point is pretty cool. Today was a great day because Gerrit has his 300th strikeout and we get 100 wins. It’s pretty special for us.”
The Astros swept the Rangers at Minute Maid Park this year, going 9-0. They improved to 58-20 at home, including 30-7 in their last 37 home games. They are 30-5 at home against the AL West with three games remaining against the Angels.
“They [the Rangers] got me good earlier in the year,” said Cole, who improved to 14-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last 20 starts. “They’ve put up a really good fight every single time we’ve played them. They’ve hit their fair share of home runs off me. It was really rewarding to cap off the sweep at home for the season, and that was a good feeling, too.”
Cole (18-5) extended his club record by winning his 14th consecutive decision, striking out 10 batters in eight innings. He became the third Astros pitcher, and first since Mike Scott in 1986, to strike out 300 in a season when he whiffed Shin-Soo Choo in the sixth inning. J.R. Richard did it twice (1978-79).
On reaching 100 wins, Cole said it takes cohesiveness, toughness, communication and pride, among other factors.
“You’ve got to go out there and play your tail off every single day and at times during the year it can be tough to do that,” he said. “This team just seems to answer the bell more often times than not. It’s such a wonderful characteristic and it’s not only reflected in the record, but it’s reflected in how much fun it is to come to the game by all the fans that come and watch us and support us.”
Gurriel hit a two-run homer in the sixth to break a scoreless tie -- his 30th of the season -- and Altuve’s 19th homer since the All-Star break made it 3-1. Still, the Astros couldn’t celebrate their accomplishments fully until Roberto Osuna pitched around two baserunners in the ninth for his 35th save.
“That was a huge accomplishment for Gerrit, huge accomplishment for the team getting 100 wins,” said rookie right-fielder Kyle Tucker, who saved a run in the third when he caught a Scott Heineman fly ball at the fence that would have been a home run. “Overall, it was a pretty good day. It wasn’t the way we wanted to go at the plate, necessarily. We wanted to put up more runs and give him more of a cushion, but we won the game and we’re happy with that.