Gonzalez HR extends lead
(c) Houston Chronicle
Sunday afternoon's 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners clinched the first ever American League Western Division Championship for the Houston Astros. Justin Verlander, making his first start at Minute Maid Park since joining the Astros, took control of the game early and the offense powered up to make sure history was made sooner rather than later.
Verlander allowed only three hits and one walk while striking out ten in seven dominant innings of work. Derek Fisher's 2-run homer in the fifth put the Astros on top 2-1 and Marwin Gonzalez added two more runs with a 2-run shot of his own later in the inning.
A 3-run seventh that featured home runs by George Springer and Carlos Correa put the proverbial icing on the cake. A.J. Hinch didn't mess around when choosing his relief pitchers, calling upon Chris Devenski and Ken Giles to take care of the final six outs.
After the last out was recorded and the players enjoyed a brief celebration on the field, George Springer led the team in a victory lap around the stadium high-fiving giddy Astros fans along the way. It was a beautiful moment for Houston fans, many of whom have been displaced from their homes or dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in one way or another.
This marks the second time in the last three seasons that the Astros have advanced to the playoffs. Winning the wildcard game in 2015 was especially sweet after losing more than 100 games in three of the four previous seasons, and winning their first A.L. West title has to be just as satisfying.
The Astros get to enjoy their accomplishment for an extra 24 hours as Monday is their final off-day of the regular season. The 'Stros go back to work on Tuesday when they begin a 3-game series against the White Sox at 7:10 Central.
- Greg Thurston