IT'S ALL HAPPENING

Should you need it, here’s the definitive list of why it’s happening for Astros

The Astros' magic number is 2. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With a nod to Rod Stewart, tonight's the night. The Astros will be crowned American League West champs if they beat the Tampa Rays at home and the Mariners lose to the A's on the west coast. Yeah, the Astros are slogging their way toward the finish line, it's not fun watching the other team walk it off of late, but the pennant is there for the taking, and it's gonna happen. It's just a matter of time zones, tonight, tomorrow or the next day. But it's gonna happen.

It can't not happen. The Astros' magic number is 2, so any combination of Astros wins or Mariners losses equaling two, and it's a done deal - the Astros will take the AL West title and open the post-season next week most likely against the White Sox, probably (hopefully) at Minute Maid Park.

Stop worrying. For the Astros to blow their 4-1/2 game lead with only six left to play, all at home, would take a monumental, catastrophic, unimaginable collapse unprecedented in baseball history.

To quote another music legend, Justin Bieber, never say never, but I'm saying never, not in a million years will the Astros throw away this division title

The Astros have too much going for them. First baseman Yuli Gurriel is battling for a batting title. Jose Altuve is having a terrific power season. Shortstop Carlos Correa has $300 million in his eyes if he's a hero in the playoffs, third baseman Alex Bregman is back in full swagger, Kyle Tucker may be the best hitter in the league right now and the Astros have the "problem" of three future outfield stars – Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers and Jose Siri – with steady Michael Brantley champing at the bit to return to the lineup.

You need a civil surveyor to measure the distance of a Yordan Alvarez homer. Lance McCullers is a full-fledged ace starter. Ryan Pressly is a dependable closer – sometimes. This is a solid, star-packed roster. All that's left are hat and horns and goggles.

As they say in the business world, the Astros are too big to fail. Then again … Enron.

To date, the most horrendous collapse was in 1964, when the Phillies had a 6-1/2 game lead on Sept. 21 with 12 left to play. The league had given them permission to print World Series tickets, back then the sign the pennant was locked up.

The Phils proceeded to lose 10 in a row and actually fell behind eventual pennant winning Cardinals by 2-1/2 games that final week. The Phillies rallied the last weekend to finish one game out, tied with the Reds for second. The Phils didn't make the post-season for another 12 years.

The Astros do have real problems beyond capturing the AL West. Let's hope the White Sox don't catch on to Jose Altuve trying to crush the first pitch every game. Everybody at home watching on TV knows it's coming. Like the Progressive commercial with the guy with blue hair – we all see it. And the opposing pitcher still starts Altuve off with a fastball down the middle.

Something else I haven't understood all season – the sound quality of manager Dusty Baker's post-game press conferences. We can talk to astronauts in space like we're calling Domino's for a pizza, yet Osama bin Laden's videos from a cave in Afghanistan had clearer sound quality than Dusty's press conferences. Heck, the speaker at Jack in the Box is easier to understand than Dusty explaining why he pulled Yordan Alvarez from a tight game.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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