After yet another disheartening loss by the Texans, Houston sports fans could still watch the Astros try to...finish the season at .500. Exciting stuff, right? Despite clinching a playoff berth on Friday, the Astros played mostly uninspired baseball this weekend in Arlington, a trend that continued Sunday with nothing at stake except their pride. An 8-4 loss to the Rangers means that Houston is the first team in baseball history to reach the playoffs with a losing record, as they finished the regular season 29-31. Try telling anyone on March 11 that the Astros would make the postseason after winning 29 games.
Shortly after the final out of Sunday’s contest, the Astros found out their first-round opponent when the Twins lost in extra innings to the Reds, dropping Minnesota to the third seed. Coming into the day, it looked like a potential matchup of division rivals with Oakland playing Houston in the first round - but crazy things happen on the final day of a 60-game season with a 16-team postseason format.
In short? The Astros will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Twins for a best-of-three series that begins Tuesday night. All games will be played at Target Field.
With Houston locked into the sixth seed regardless of the outcome, many of their regular starters were lifted halfway through the contest. George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa all hit the showers long before its conclusion.
Altuve and Correa did make their presence known, each launching their fifth home runs of the season. Altuve’s came in the top of the first inning against former Astro Jordan Lyles to give Houston the game’s first run. Correa homered to put his team in front 3-1 in the fourth before things snowballed against starter Chase De Jong in the bottom half.
Texas plated five runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by a three-run homer off the bat of Rougned Odor. De Jong was eventually removed from the game with the bases loaded and two outs, and Leody Taveras greeted Nivaldo Rodriguez with a two-run single to give the Rangers a 6-3 advantage.
Odor added his second home run of the ballgame in the fifth, this one a solo shot. The Rangers second baseman had a dismal year (hitting .167), but will go into the offseason on a high note from this multi long-ball afternoon.
Houston picked up their final run of the regular season in the eighth when Aledmys Diaz led off the frame with his third homer of the campaign. Another positive aspect of the day is that the Astros did not burn through their pitching staff, as they used only three arms - De Jong, Rodriguez, and Luis Garcia for the final out of the eighth.
Although this was a bizarre regular season like no other, records must still be kept and this is the first time the Astros have finished with a sub-.500 mark since going 70-92 in 2014. The road record was a major bugaboo as they went just 9-23 away from Minute Maid Park this year.