Ladies and gentlemen, the Houston Astros are the AL West division champs!
To be honest, that wasn’t a line I expected to write last week. Or numerous times throughout the season. In a campaign with numerous suboptimal developments, it felt like the Wild Card was about the best outcome for this group of players. But, in a strange twist of fate with some unexpected help, the Astros came out ahead on the final day of the season and won their sixth AL West title in the last seven seasons. Hey, I’m not complaining.
Now on a bye thanks to earning the number two seed in the AL, the Astros await the winner of the Minnesota-Toronto Wild Card series, with Game 1 of the ALDS taking place on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. This time off allows Houston to structure its starting rotation how it sees fit and also allows Dusty Baker to utilize his full pitching staff with seemingly no limitations. A positive development in a season, well, not necessarily full of them.
The series finale in Arizona was relatively stress-free, at least from an Astros’ point of view. Cristian Javier cruised for six innings, allowing no runs on three hits and two walks. He also struck out four. The only speed bump occurred when Rafael Montero allowed a run to score in the bottom of the eighth, but the game was almost decided at that point, with the lineup already driving in eight runs. My only beef of the day lies with the official scorer, who initially ruled Kyle Tucker’s hit in the fifth inning a triple to eventually overturn it to a home run only to revert it to a triple.
Kyle Tucker no longer has a home run. It remains a triple. This is the fourth official scoring change of this thing. Incredible.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 1, 2023
So, yes, Tucker finishes his 2023 regular season with 29 home runs and 30 stolen bases. A great season, without a doubt. But how his 30th home run was given and then taken away doesn’t sit right with me. Oh, well.
The important thing about this weekend was clinching a spot in the postseason and possibly wrestling away the AL West title from the Rangers. Thanks to the tiebreaker with Texas, it worked in the Astros’ favor. Wow, what a season. A frustrating season, for sure. But considering all of the potential pitfalls, expected and unexpected, it was quite a feat to win the AL West title for the sixth time in seven seasons. The below chart captures the roller-coaster nature of this season quite well in my opinion.
Now, let’s enjoy some baseball without having to immediately worry about the Astros for most of this week. I know I will as those stress-filled October days quickly approach, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. It is almost time for some postseason baseball!