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.

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