Best in the West: Astros Clinch Yet Another Division Title

St. Petersburg, Florida- The Houston Astros clinched their fifth division title in six years on Monday night with a 4-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Houston also secured a first-round bye for the upcoming postseason with the win.

This season for the Astros has been quite the ride. Their pitching has been dominant despite losing longtime pitching coach Brent Strom during the offseason. One of the biggest surprises pitching-wise for Houston this season was the resurgence of Justin Verlander, who is putting up sensational numbers coming off of Tommy John surgery.

Verlander boasts an ERA of 1.78, which leads the majors, a record of 17-3, 163 strikeouts, and a WHIP of .83.

However, Verlander isn’t the only starting pitcher for Houston performing well, as the rotation has been one of the best in the game.

Framber Valdez has had his best season, setting the MLB record for most consecutive quality starts with 25. Valdez also has an ERA of 2.57, with 176 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.11.

Lance McCullers Jr.returned from injury last month and immediately made an impact. In the six games, he’s pitched so far, McCullers has a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 2.34, 37 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.27.

Unlike most teams, the Astros backend starters in their rotation are solid, making some tough decisions for manager Dusty Baker, with guys like Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier, and rookie phenom Hunter Brown holding their own.

One of the biggest surprises overall for Houston is the bullpen. Houston has had some problems in past seasons with their bullpen keeping them in games, but the ‘pen has been shutting down offenses all season. The bullpen holds the best ERA in the MLB, with a 2.72.

This season, the most notable pitchers in the bullpen have been Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, and Hector Neris. Stanek had an impressive streak early in the season in which he had gone well over a month without giving up a run, while Neris and Abreu have proved themselves in the closer role when Ryan Pressly gets a night off.

The Astros offense started the season off highly inconsistent, but as of late, they’ve been able to stay hot down the stretch. Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez have proved to be some of the best 3-4 hole hitters in the game, with many other players continuing to heat up.

Alex Bregman’s numbers in August mirrored his incredible 2019 season, putting his season stats as follows:

269 batting average, 21 home runs, 88 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of .847.

Alvarez’s best month this season was the month of July, in which he was on a tear at the plate. Yordan has been putting up his career-best numbers as follows:

.304 batting average, 37 home runs, 94 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of 1.032.

The Astros will look to make it back to the ALCS for a sixth consecutive time this season, with hopes of winning their second World Series Championship. The ALDS starts October 11th with the Astros facing the Rays and Blue Jays Wild Card matchup winner.

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