With the Athletics on their toes, the Astros had to make a statement before the season ended. An 11-3 thrashing of the Angels on Friday night definitely helped their cause. With that win, the Astros clinched their third playoff spot in four seasons.
#AstrosWin 11-3! Postseason spot CLINCHED! pic.twitter.com/8cEx5g4R9F
— Houston Astros (@astros) September 22, 2018
There were several factors that lead to the defending World Series Champions finding their way back to the postseason. Offseason pickup Gerrit Cole had another solid outing, throwing seven innings of six-hit ball, allowing three earned runs and striking out 12. His ERA is now 2.92 on the year with a 15-5 record.
Clutch hits by the top of the order, like a George Springer home run, definitely helped. It was Yuli Gurriel, however, who lit the spark. The first baseman went 3-for-4 with two home runs and seven RBIs. One of those home runs was a grand slam in the first inning. He then hit a two-run home run in the third inning. Both home runs came off of Andrew Heaney.
Well that's neat! #Astros up 4-0 early vs Angels. If Yuli Gurriel hits a Grand Slam can I call it a Pineapple Blast? What do y'all think? pic.twitter.com/9vXy5bncA6
— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) September 22, 2018
Yuli wasn’t the only Gurriel to have a solid night at the plate. His brother, Lourdes Jr., also went deep twice. According to Elias, they are the first pair of brothers to record multi-homer games on the same day.
While the organization was toasting inside Minute Maid Park, manager AJ Hinch spoke to the media about Gurriel’s outing.
“It’s a big night for him. And to kick-start us this way with four in the first was exactly what you need to do when you’re in the position where you want to play ahead.”
The win was a much-needed one for the Astros. Tampa Bay defeated the Blue Jays earlier, allowing the Astros’ magic number to clinch go down to zero. The magic number to clinch the American League West is six. The A’s had a solid night of their own, walking-off against the Twins, 7-6.
For now, it appears the Astros are scheduled to go on a collision course against the Cleveland Indians. Even with a playoff birth to show for their efforts, the team will not slow down, not even for a second. With only a few games left, every moment counts.