There is no better sign the Astros’ offense may finally be clicking on all cylinders than when George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman all hit home runs in the same game for the first time in more than two years. If they can keep it up, the defending American League champs could be dangerous in the postseason.
The Astros still have work to do before they can punch their ticket, but they will enter the final weekend of the regular season with a magic of number of one to clinch the second playoff spot in the AL West after crushing the Rangers, 12-4, on Thursday night in their first game at new Globe Life Field.
“It was big to break out like that and keep scoring,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We usually have the big first inning, but we kept scoring.”
One win by the Astros over their final three games against the Rangers or one loss by the Angels in their three-game series against the Dodgers would clinch Houston’s fifth trip to the postseason in six years and its club-record fourth straight playoff appearance.
“It would be great, but I know everybody is focused on just repeating those at-bats, repeating those swings and taking it into tomorrow and playing hard,” Bregman said. “I was really excited with today’s game.”
It was the first time that Springer, Altuve (who was a triple shy of the cycle) and Bregman (who was a single shy of the cycle) went deep in the same game since the trio went back to back to back against the Rays on June 20, 2018. Each had three hits, as did Josh Reddick, who hit the Astros' fourth homer of the night in the ninth inning.
“I think that’s what we should be doing,” Bregman said. “We have a very good offense, and I thought we could have felt sorry for ourselves after getting in at 3 a.m. [CT Thursday] after a tough series in Seattle, but that would have been the easy thing to do. We’re going to show up and play hard every day. I’m proud of everybody in there.”
Houston’s offensive outburst was its largest since scoring a season-high 13 runs against Colorado on Aug. 19. Its offense had been struggling since, hitting .216 as a team in its past 20 games, including scoring nine runs during its three-game series loss at Seattle prior to coming to Arlington.
Facing right-hander Lance Lynn, who entered with a 2.53 ERA, Springer hit a 445-foot homer over the center-field wall in the second inning, a three-run blast that put the Astros ahead, 5-0. Bregman’s first homer since Aug. 11 was a two-run blast in the fifth that made it 7-0, and Altuve’s first homer since Aug. 6, a three-run shot in the sixth, pushed the lead to 10-0.
“It’s hard to explain,” Baker said. “Lynn is such a quality pitcher, and then we got shut down in Seattle. It’s hard to figure. Those quality at-bats can take a lot out of the pitcher, because he has to keep making quality pitches. We had some real fight ‘em at-bats, and this is what you want. You want to battle and battle and battle and hopefully get a pitch to hit and do something with it.”
Astros starter Cristian Javier capped a strong rookie season by allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings. He finished with a 5-2 record, a 3.48 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings, with 54 strikeouts, 18 walks and 36 hits allowed. The right-hander will likely be in the bullpen if Houston advances to the best-of-three Wild Card Series.
But the Astros' offensive resurgence was the story of the night.
“Up and down the lineup, we strung together good, quality at-bats,” Springer said. “We got some walks in there, obviously some big hits -- Alex with the huge [triple] in the first inning, Jose’s [11-pitch] at-bat in the first inning. Small stuff like that. It was a good night for us.”