Houston Astros wrap up 5th AL West title in last 6 years


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Astros clinched their fifth American League West title in six years on Monday, extending the franchise’s run of dominance and cementing what has been anticipated for months. 

The Astros’ second consecutive AL West championship was sealed by a 4-0 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. 

With the clinch, Houston (97-51) also received a bye in the wild card series and secured home-field advantage in the division series. The magic number for the Astros to clinch home-field advantage through the American League playoffs is seven over the Yankees. 

ALSO SEE: A look at the Astros’ previous 10 division championships.

The Astros beat the Rays to clinch the AL West in 2021, too, when former shortstop Carlos Correa’s three-run homer delivered Houston a 3-2 victory. 

Correa left Houston for Minnesota in the offseason, but that did not stop the Astros from authoring another commanding season in 2022. Since the All-Star break, no other AL West team has come within 10 games of Houston’s division-best record. 

On Monday, the Astros’ win was led by four dynasty staples and two burgeoning young hurlers. Jose Altuve’s first-inning leadoff home run, Yuli Gurriel’s stellar infield defense and additional offense from Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman supplemented a shutout pitching performance. 

On the mound for Houston, 23-year-old Luis Garcia and 24-year-old Hunter Brown combined to throw eight of the game’s nine innings.

The Astros became the first American League team to clinch a playoff spot when they beat the A’s at Minute Maid Park on Friday night, five days after the Los Angeles Dodgers earned their playoff berth. It took only two more days for the Astros to reach another clinching milestone worthy of a full clubhouse champagne celebration. 

The Astros and Rays mustered a combined five hits and one run through five innings. Altuve’s home run remained the difference in the game until the sixth inning, when the first four Astros batters reached while scoring three runs. 

In what would be the final inning for Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, Altuve singled and Jeremy Peña drew a walk to kick things off. Alvarez blasted an RBI single 114.8 mph off the bat into right field, scoring Altuve, and slid hard into second base on the throw while Peña dove headfirst into third. 

Astros manager Dusty Baker and a trainer came out to check on Alvarez. The slugger stayed in the game and appeared to have no trouble running the bases on the next play. Bregman ripped a broken-bat double into left field, doubling the lead again to 4-0. 

Garcia worked five scoreless innings on 86 pitches, yielding two hits, four walks, four strikeouts and one wild pitch. He walked the leadoff batter in each of the first two innings, stranding two runners in scoring position in the second, but settled down in a 1-2-3 third inning. Garcia stranded two more runners in the fourth inning and another in the fifth inning before he departed. 

It was Garcia’s third start this season without allowing a run and his first scoreless outing since he pitched five shutout innings at Minnesota on May 12. Monday’s performance lowered his ERA to 3.90. 

Brown took over for Garcia and made his first major league appearance out of the bullpen. The rookie’s fastball topped out at 98.2 mph as he pitched three scoreless frames, allowing two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. 

Three outs stood between the Astros and another division title. Baker summoned Héctor Neris, a nine-year veteran who left Philadelphia after eight seasons to compete for a championship in Houston. 

Neris struck out Rays leadoff hitter Yandy Díaz for the final out. As his pitch hit the catcher’s glove, Neris whirled around with fist clenched to face his teammates, who converged on the mound and celebrated what had felt for a while like destiny. 

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