Red-hot Houston Astros down Tampa Bay Rays seal fifth AL West crown in six years

Red-hot Houston Astros down Tampa Bay Rays seal fifth AL West crown in six years

Red-hot Houston Astros down Tampa Bay Rays seal fifth AL West crown in six years

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Houston Astros captured their fifth American League West title in six years, getting a leadoff home run from Jose Altuve in a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.

En route to the postseason for the sixth straight season, Houston won for the eighth time in nine games and improved the AL’s best record to 97-51. The Astros, who are a league-best 16-4 (.800) in their last 20 games, are now assured of a first-round bye in the playoffs.

“It never gets old. It’s always fun,” Alex Bregman said of the Astros winning another division title. “This is why we play the game. We play the game to win. And this is what it’s all about.

“I think this ball club expects to be good on a daily basis. We pride ourselves on going out there every single day and playing hard. These guys prepare and show up and compete. They hold themselves to a high standard. And I believe that is very important in championship teams.”

Houston has led the division by nine games or more since June 15.

“Even though we expected to be here, it’s never something I take for granted,” pitcher Justin Verlander said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of teams that made the playoffs, but I’ve played with guys that did. 10 years and never experienced this. All those things kind of go through your head in those situations.”

Added manager Dusty Baker: “This is the start of it. You have to get to this point first, and then you get to the next point and the next point and the next point. You just have to appreciate where we are right now and come back at work tomorrow.”

Luis Garcia (13-8) won his fifth straight decision, giving up two hits and four walks in five innings while striking out four. Hunter Brown pitched three innings and Hector Neris completed the five-hitter, the Astros’ 16th shutout of the season.

“It’s been a fun ride and we’ve got to enjoy it,” said catcher Christian Vazquez, who was acquired on Aug. 1. “This is the first step, and if we keep doing our thing, we’re going to be fine.”

Tampa Bay (82-65) is in position for the second of three AL wild-card spots, one game behind Toronto (83-64) and a half game ahead of Seattle (81-65). After the three-game series ends Wednesday, the Rays host the Blue Jays in a four-game series.

Harold Ramirez had three of the Rays’ five hits. Drew Rasmussen (10-6) gave up four runs and six hits in six innings. He has allowed four runs in consecutive starts after giving up three runs or fewer in 11 straight.

Altuve hit his 25th homer on the fifth pitch of the game, his 11th leadoff homer of the season and the 32nd of his career. Altuve singled to lead off the sixth, Jeremy Pena walked and Yordan Alvarez hit an RBI single. Bregman followed with a broken bat, two-run double.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.