For the fourth time in the last five years, the Houston Astros are the AL West champions. The Astros clinched the division title Thursday night thanks to a 3-2 win over the Rays (box score) thanks in part to a timely Carlos Correa home run. It is the 10th division title in franchise history, including Houston’s time in the NL West and NL Central.
The Astros will play the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS, which starts next Thursday.
All three American League divisions have now been clinched. The Rays won the AL East and the White Sox won the AL Central, leaving the two wild-card spots as the league’s only race. The Yankees currently occupy the top spot while the Red Sox, Mariners, and Blue Jays are fighting for the final spot. The three division races are all over, however.
Tampa has already clinched the best record in the American League, so the Astros are locked into facing the White Sox in the ALDS. Houston has not yet clinched home-field advantage for that series, however, so that’s next on their to-do list. The ALDS is scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 7.
As usual, the Astros were led by a powerhouse offense this year. They are second in baseball in runs scored per game while also having the game’s lowest team strikeout rate. Stalwarts Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel have led the way, plus Kyle Tucker’s breakout helped compensate when Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman missed time with injuries.
Houston also has a top-five pitching staff by runs allowed per game and team ERA+. Lance McCullers Jr. will get down-ballot Cy Young support and Luis Garcia is firmly in the Rookie of the Year mix. Veteran Zack Greinke has struggled lately, though Jake Odorizzi, José Urquidy, and Framber Valdez give the club options. Also, Ryan Pressly has been a lockdown closer all year.
The Astros put themselves in a position to win four division titles in five years with an aggressive rebuild that saw the club lose 324 games from 2011-13. The rebuild led to a sustainable championship-caliber core and has spawned copycats all around the league, though none have had as much success as the Astros.
Houston has advanced to the ALCS every year since 2017 and it should be noted this is their first division title — and first season with fans in the stands — since the sign-stealing scandal broke last offseason. They have been booed on the road all season and that will undoubtedly continue in October.