TORONTO -- The champagne is on ice.The Astros reached 100 wins for the second year in a row, and third time in team history, and won their second consecutive American League West title after a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, coupled with the
TORONTO -- The champagne is on ice.
The Astros reached 100 wins for the second year in a row, and third time in team history, and won their second consecutive American League West title after a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, coupled with the Athletics' 10-8 defeat to the Mariners. Houston will celebrate the division title following Wednesday's game in Toronto.
"It's hard to win in this league in general," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It's really hard to win in this league when everybody expects it and you have such a small margin for error when there's a reaction every time you don't win. To be at 100 and climbing is remarkable for this team, and we should be very proud."
Houston will face Cleveland in the AL Division Series. The Astros took the season series from the Indians, 4-3, outscoring the Tribe, 45-29.
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"You look around the league and not too many people get to be a part of a postseason team and a 100-win season," Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. "Most of us in this locker room got back-to-back 100-win seasons, so it's a very big accomplishment for a lot of us in here as individuals and as a team. It's pretty special."
The Astros won their franchise-record 54th road game of the season and improved to a Major League-best 18-4 in September.
"We have 100 wins and honestly have been banged up all year," Astros shortstop Alex Bregman said. "We really haven't played our best baseball until lately. That's a good sign heading into the postseason. I like to be playing our best baseball at the end of the year. I think we did last year and won the World Series. I think we're in a good spot right now."
Astros rookie right-hander Josh James held the Blue Jays to one run and four hits in five innings, and Bregman clubbed a two-run home run in the first inning -- his team-high 31st of the season -- to put Houston ahead, 2-0.
The only run James allowed came on a solo homer to Billy McKinney in the third that cut the lead to 2-1, but the Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth and pushed across two runs -- on a Tyler White single and sacrifice fly by Evan Gattis, that followed a misplay by Blue Jays center fielder Jonathan Davis on a Reddick pop fly.
For the second night in a row, Houston relievers covered four scoreless innings, with Thomas Pressly striking out Justin Smoak on three pitches to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.
"We did just enough tonight to win," Hinch said. "We got a big swing from Bregman that put us up and James did a good job of getting us to the middle of the game. Our bullpen -- Tony Sipp had a great inning, Pressly continues to come in and get a huge out and [Hector] Rondon has looked as good as he's looked in recent times and [Roberto] Osuna gets the save. It mapped out perfectly for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rondon retired all three batters he faced in the eighth inning, which was a big development for the Astros. About four or five days ago, the Astros tinkered with the struggling reliever's mechanics to help him extend and get his pitches where he needed them. He had allowed 13 hits and nine runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last five outings.
"That was really good to see him clean his delivery up and be effective in the zone with some movement and get the ball on the ground against some left-handed hitters," Hinch said. "That was a plus."
The Astros are only the fifth defending World Series champion to win at least 100 games in the divisional era, joining the 1971 Orioles, 1976 Reds, 1978 Yankees and 1990 A's. All four of those teams returned to the Fall Classic. The Reds and Yankees successfully defended their titles.
HE SAID IT
"I love Pressly against anybody in the league right now." -- Hinch
Reliever Chris Devenski (2-2, 4.12 ERA) will get the start for the Astros in Wednesday's 3:07 p.m. CT series final against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Astros are expected to use relief pitchers throughout the game, including Lance McCullers in his first appearance since coming off the DL. Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (2-4, 5.40) will start for the Blue Jays.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.