The Astros clinched the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a 7-1 victory over the Mariners. It marks the Astros’ first division title since 2001 when they were in the NL Central. They will be back in the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Justin Verlander delivered another strong start, holding the Mariners to one run on three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts over seven innings. He has given up a total of two runs and 10 hits in three starts since the Astros acquired him from the Tigers at the end of August.
On offense, Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, and Carlos Correa each homered. Every regular in the lineup except Carlos Beltran had at least one hit.
The 91-58 Astros still have meaningful baseball left to play as they are battling the 92-57 Indians for the best record in the American League, which would earn them home field advantage in the playoffs.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: