Story by Brian McTaggart of the Houston Astros
By the end of the third inning Sunday afternoon, every Astros starting position player had at least one hit and had scored at least one run. By the time the Astros had their first single of the game, they had already scored 10 runs.
That set the stage for one of the most lopsided wins in team history for the Astros, who set a club record with 11 doubles and continued their dominance of the American League West at Minute Maid Park by blasting the Mariners, 21-1, to sweep a four-game series and inch closer to clinching their third consecutive division title.
The Astros (94-50) have won 16 of their last 20 games, reducing their magic number to clinch the division to 10 games. They’ve won 11 consecutive games against the Mariners to improve to 27-2 at home against the AL West ahead of a four-game series against second-place Oakland that begins Monday at Minute Maid Park.
“We know what’s at stake,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “The mentality that served us well is winning today’s game is going to get us to the next one. We have [Zack] Greinke going tomorrow. That’s the game we’ll focus on. If we can build closer and closer to win our division, that is our first goal. The sooner we can do that, the better.”
Astros starter Gerrit Cole (16-5) held the Mariners to one hit — a 338-foot homer to Shed Long in the fourth inning — and struck out a season-high 15 in eight innings to win his club-record-tying 12th consecutive decision. Chris Devenski pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to polish off the one-hitter.
“There was a lot that happened today — the extra-base hits, the doubles, the homers, Gerrit Cole’s dominance,” Hinch said. “We got Jose [Altuve] and Alex [Bregman] out of the game as early as I’ve ever taken guys out of the game to get a little bit of rest. It was a win all the way around.”
While the Astros scored nine times in the bottom of the third inning to open up a 13-0 lead, Cole had to stay locked in mentally and physically during the 32-minute half-inning.
“But when you’re scoring that many runs, I guess I’m always up for a challenge,” Cole said.
Houston’s 22-hit attack was led by rookie Yordan Alvarez, who went 4-for-6 with three doubles and six RBIs. Two of those doubles came in the third inning, making him the first Astros player to have multiple doubles in an inning since at least 1984.
“You could definitely feel everybody on the team wanted to do well offensively and do well together,” Alvarez said.
Myles Straw replaced Bregman as a pinch-runner in the third inning and went 3-for-3 with three runs scored. George Springer homered and drove in four runs after missing the previous three games with a concussion. Jake Marisnick went 3-for-6 and homered as 11 Astros scored a run, which is a club record.
“I think it’s a good representation of our team, offensively, defensively and pitching-wise today,” said rookie outfielder Kyle Tucker, who went 2-for-5 with two doubles. “Today was just a perfect game for us, and Cole threw eight strong innings and the offense exploded. It was an awesome game for us.”
Here’s some other eye-popping offensive numbers from Sunday’s win:
• The Astros’ 11 doubles broke the previous club record of 10 set on May 11, 1999, against the Pirates. Five of their doubles on Sunday came against Mariners starter Felix Hernandez in a span of seven hitters in a nine-run third, and their six doubles in the third are the most in any inning in club history. It’s the most doubles by any team since Cleveland had 11 on July 1, 2018, at Oakland. Houston’s 13 extra-base hits tied a club record set Aug. 10 of this year at Baltimore.
• The Astros scored at least 20 runs in a game for only the third time in their history. The franchise record prior to this season was 21 runs on Oct. 2, 2015 at Arizona. Houston set a club record by scoring 23 runs on Aug. 10 of this season at Baltimore. The last team with multiple wins by at least 20 runs in the same season was the 1939 Yankees, who had three.
• The Astros tied a franchise record with their 55th home win of the season. The 1980 and ‘98 teams also won 55 games at home, but the Astros still have nine home games remaining. Houston has gone 27-4 in their last 31 games at Minute Maid Park.
• Houston is 16-1 against Seattle this season, which is its most wins against a single opponent in a season in club history (they beat the Giants 15 times in 1985). The Astros have two remaining games against the Mariners in Seattle on Sept. 24-25.