EditorsNote: 2nd graf, adds Astros’ magic number to clinch division title
Gerrit Cole reached a significant milestone while pitching the Astros to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers on Wednesday, allowing Houston to clinch its fourth playoff berth in five years.
Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve slugged homers for the American League West-leading Astros, who can do no worse than landing an AL wild card. The win also lowered Houston’s magic number to two to lock up the American League West Division title.
Cole (18-5) struck out Rangers designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo with an 89.8 mph changeup to conclude the top of the sixth inning and record his 300th strikeout on the season. He became just the third pitcher in franchise history to reach that benchmark in a single year, joining fellow right-handers J.R. Richard (313 in 1979, 303 in 1978) and Mike Scott (306 in 1986).
He hit the mark in just 198 1/3 innings, just missing the record held by Randy Johnson, who recorded his 300th strikeout in 197 2/3 innings in 2001.
Cole worked eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts. It marked his 19th double-digit strikeout start on the season and seventh in succession, matching the club record set by staff mate Justin Verlander earlier this season. Cole is 14-0 with a 1.87 ERA over his last 20 starts.
The Astros (100-53) reached 100 victories for a third consecutive season. Houston owns the best record in the majors, taking a one-game lead over the New York Yankees, who lost 3-2 at home to the Los Angeles Angels. The Astros also completed a home season sweep of the Rangers, finishing 9-0 vs. Texas at Minute Maid Park.
Houston didn’t break the scoreless tie until the fifth inning, when Gurriel slugged a two-run home run off Rangers left-hander Kolby Allard (4-1) with two outs.
Gurriel followed a single from Yordan Alvarez with his 30th homer, a 362-foot shot to left-center field. At 35 years old, Gurriel is the third-oldest player in history with 30 homers, 40 doubles and 100 RBIs in a season (David Ortiz, 40, in 2016; Vinny Castilla, 36, in 2004).
Allard allowed two runs on four hits and four walks with two strikeouts over five innings.
Altuve socked his 29th homer against Emmanuel Clase leading off the seventh.
The Rangers (74-79) got a run in the top of the seventh on an error by Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, and Ronald Guzman homered, his 10th, off Cole leading off the eighth. Texas placed the first two runners on in the ninth against Roberto Osuna, but the Astros closer escaped for his 35th save.
—Field Level Media