Carlos Beltran homers twice, drives in seven runs

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Albert Pujols remains homerless for the Angels, but the man signed to replace him in the Cardinals’ lineup went deep twice yesterday and drove in seven runs.

Carlos Beltran now has seven homers in 23 games for St. Louis, and he’s hitting .279 with a .398 on-base percentage and .535 slugging percentage to essentially match last season’s excellent production for the Mets and Giants.

Those numbers can’t match vintage Pujols production, but his .933 OPS is nearly double Pujols’ current .539 mark and Beltran looks like an absolute bargain on a two-year, $26 million deal. And perhaps most importantly he’s been healthy, starting his 17th straight game last night and, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, talking his way into the lineup when manager Mike Matheny wanted to give him a day off.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.