Entering the night, with just nine games left on the regular season schedule, the Astros had a magic number of 2. With a win and an Oakland loss, the team would finally clinch the AL West for the third straight season. The result of the Rangers-A’s game is still pending, but the Astros at least did their part with a 6-4 win over the Angels.
It was a rather boring game, which is especially shocking given how much of a bang things started out with. Astros starter Zack Greinke, looking for his seventh win in nine starts since coming over at the trade deadline, retired Los Angeles in order on just thirteen pitches in the top of the first.
Meanwhile, the Angels were running starter Jaime Barria, who has had some success against the Astros (2.73 in 5 starts, entering tonight) despite otherwise-unremarkable career numbers (4.35 ERA in 43 career games). Tonight proved to be the night where that luck finally ran out, however.
Jose Altuve started things off with a bang, launching a 2-2 pitch into the Crawford Boxes. That marked his third leadoff homer this season, as well as his 30th overall, improving on what is already a career-best. That also makes him the fourth Astro with 30 homers on the year, joining Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, and George Springer; only thirteen other teams in history have done that, and if Yordan can pick up four more the rest of the way, the Astros will join this year’s Twins as the only other team in history with five 30-homer players.
Speaking of Bregman, though, he very quickly joined in on the fun with his thirty-eighth homer of the year, this one off the left field foul pole. That total gives him the most for an Astro since Lance Berkman hit 45 back in 2006. Just like that, the score doubled.
Immediately after that, Yordan singled up the middle to set up Carlos Correa for his twentieth homer of the year (and first since returning from the Injured List), once again doubling the Astros score.
Unfortunately, that pattern couldn’t go on forever, as the Astros would eventually run out of bases to loaded up. So instead, they settled for a double from Aledmys Díaz and an RBI single from Josh Reddick.
After that, there was a quiet second. Things heated up again in the third, when Greinke allowed a leadoff home run to Anaheim catcher Kevan Smith, but the Astros quickly reclaimed a five-run lead in the bottom half of the inning when Correa launched his second homer of the game to assure everyone that he was, in fact, feeling better.
After allowing another hit to Díaz and hitting Robinson Chirinos with a pitch, Barria’s night was done at just two and two thirds, and the California Angels would turn to the bullpen. Things went pretty smoothly for them from that point on, but it’s hard to win a game when your starter spots the other team six runs in under three innings.
Granted, things did get a little interesting in the top of the fourth. The Angels managed to string together four singles with an Andrelton Simmons double in the middle, all to right field, giving them back three runs. Thankfully, the Astros managed to get a double play and strikeout to end things there.
And that was basically where the offense ended for the night. Zack Greinke would post a 1-2-3 fifth, giving him a 5.0 inning, 4-run, 7-hit outing with 4 strikeouts (moving him past Chuck Finley for 26th all-time), then four relievers provided four innings of one-hit (a bloop shot with two out in the ninth), one-walk baseball. Ryan Pressly made his triumphant return off the IL and struck out two. Josh James and Roberto Osuna also K’ed a pair (giving Osuna his 36th save on the year, one shy of AL leader Aroldis Chapman). Will Harris only struck out one in the eighth, and it’s a good sign when that’s the weakest inning from the pen.
The Astros’ bats also went quiet at that point, though. Aledmys picked up his third hit of the night on a single, Chirinos doubled to start the sixth and was stranded, and Alex Bregman picked up his league-leading 111th walk on the year. Other than that, though, the Greater Orange County Angels kept them off the bases.
But tonight, that big first inning was more than enough, and it’s extra-good to see Carlos Correa and Ryan Pressly picking up where they left off. The next Athletics loss (the Rangers so far do not seem up to the task tonight) or Astros win hands the division to Houston. In the meantime, tonight’s win moved their record to 101-53 on the season, a win (and two losses) ahead of the Yankees for top seed and two wins behind last year’s franchise record.
Tomorrow will bring game two of this final home series of the season. The Southern Pacific Coast Angels will turn to Patrick Sandoval, while Wade Miley will be taking the hill for Houston. The game starts at 6:10 PM Central Time.