Houston will finish on top of the division again

Astros clinch AL West crown with series win over Rays

Carlos Correa's three-run homer helped clinch the AL West for the Astros on Thursday night. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

After missing their chance to lock things up on Wednesday night, the Astros looked again to celebrate a division crown if they could best the Rays in the series finale on Thursday. Thanks to a big homer and another great start from Lance McCullers Jr., they would get it done to punch their ticket to the MLB playoffs.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rays 2

Astros' Record: 93-66, first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5)

Losing Pitcher: Ryan Yarbrough (9-7)

Correa gives McCullers Jr. three runs of support

After three scoreless innings on both sides, the Astros put themselves in position to score in the bottom of the fourth, getting a leadoff single by the American League batting leader, Yuli Gurriel, followed by a walk. That brought Carlos Correa to the plate, and he delivered a three-run homer to start the scoring and give Houston a 3-0 lead.

Lance McCullers Jr. was cruising with that lead, allowing just one runner to that point, a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth, which he erased. After a 1-2-3 fifth, Tampa Bay would get to him in the top of the sixth, getting their first hit via a leadoff single, then a two-out two-run homer to trim the lead to one run. McCullers Jr. would go on to finish the inning, though, still in line for the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 98 P.

Astros clinch the division

Ryne Stanek came out of the bullpen for the top of the seventh, maintaining the one-run lead by working around a one-out single. After stranding a runner in the bottom of the inning, Houston moved to their next reliever in the top of the eighth, Kendall Graveman.

Graveman hit the first batter he faced on the first pitch but was able to get a flyout and double play to maintain the lead. Houston went to their closer in the top of the ninth with their advantage still just one run, bringing in Ryan Pressly. He dealt with traffic, allowing a leadoff walk then watching another reach on an error, but a timely double play would set him up for a groundout to end the game and clinch the division for Houston for the fourth time in five years.

Up Next: The opener of the final regular-season series for Houston will start at 7:10 PM Central on Friday at Minute Maid Park. While the A's have tagged Sean Manaea as their starter, the Astros will take their rotation day by day in the lead-up to the postseason.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
A new hotel is in the works near Minute Maid. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.


But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome