ARLINGTON -- Fittingly for the team whose name comes from the glory days of the Space Race, the final countdown is beginning to reverberate louder every day. The Astros’ magic number to win the American League West is down to 10 after another rout of the Rangers on Thursday at Globe Life Field -- this time, a 12-1 drubbing in the final game of the four-game series.
The Astros’ mastery of the Rangers was not particularly surprising at this point in the season. With three victories this week, Houston went 14-5 in the Lone Star Series this year, its most wins against Texas in a single season.
Still, though it didn’t shock anyone, the Astros had an undeniably fantastic series. They outscored the Rangers 34-4 in their three victories and 35-12 overall. During the four-game set, Jose Altuve went 7-for-15 (.467), rookie Jose Siri went 6-for-12 (.500), Yuli Gurriel went 6-for-19 (.316), Kyle Tucker went 6-for-14 (.429), Alex Bregman went 5-for-12 (.417) and Carlos Correa went 4-for-12 (.333). The Astros hit 10 home runs in the three victories.
“We always talk about passing the torch to the next guy, trying to just string together good at-bat after good at-bat,” Bregman said. “When we do that, I think we’re an extremely good offense.”
The Rangers are sending a cadre of unseasoned starting pitchers to the mound these days, and the Astros pounced on three of them. Spencer Howard, Kohei Arihara and Glenn Otto all shouldered losses. Howard has only 18 big league starts, while Arihara and Otto are rookies with even less MLB experience. Only Jordan Lyles, by far the most veteran Rangers starter, earned a win in the series.
The Astros dismantled Otto in a seven-run fourth inning Thursday, batting around while collecting six hits and three walks. The highlight of the inning came when Correa smacked a three-run home run 442 feet off the batter’s eye in center field, sparing any fans in the outfield seats from being walloped by the 108.6-mph blast.
“That one felt so good,” Correa said. “I got all of that one. It’s a good feeling to get on the plane knowing that you crushed one that same day.”
Houston starter Luis Garcia pitched more than adequately, given the run support he received. Garcia threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing one earned run on five hits and three walks. He has 11 wins this season, all since May 15.
“I didn’t have too much command today, I threw the ball OK, and I’m glad the result was good,” Garcia said.
Both Bregman and Correa agreed Garcia is a deserving candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Bregman said. “Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win, competes, works extremely hard on the days he’s not pitching. He’s a student of the game, he’s a great teammate. He’s been a leader for us. I’m super happy for him for the season he has had. I do believe he should win Rookie of the Year.”
The series win moved the Astros three games closer to clinching their fourth division title in the last five years. Any combination of Astros victories and A’s losses that adds up to 10 will seal it up. The Mariners remain in contention, one game behind the A's.
With three games against the D-backs starting Friday, the Astros will have the luxury of playing one of the only two teams in the Majors with fewer wins than the Rangers. Manager Dusty Baker said the Astros aren’t paying attention to their magic number yet, but the countdown continues.
“I haven’t heard anybody discuss that or talk about it at all -- we’re just going out there playing ball, whatever that number is, just trying to win and close out strong and finish strong,” Baker said.