It came down to the wire in 2023, but the Houston Astros closed out the regular season as the champions of the American League West after they beat Arizona on Sunday and the Rangers fell to Seattle. The only way for the Astros to avoid the wild card round was to win today and hope Texas choked against the Mariners and that is exactly what happened.
The heroes once again on Sunday were the Houston pitching staff as Cristian Javier was tremendous while throwing six scoreless. However, unlike the last two games, the Astros' offense showed up in a big way. Alex Bregman set the tone early with a two-run shot in the first inning, Kyle Tucker secured a 30-30 season after MLB rightfully ruled that he hit an inside the park home run, and Jose Abreu chipped in with a two-run shot of his own.
While the Astros certainly would have preferred to have wrapped this thing up sooner, they showed a lot of resolve and did what they had to do when the teams around them folded under the pressure.
The playoffs begin for the Houston Astros
Now that the dust has settled, the Astros are locked into the second seed in the AL which means Houston gets a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They will face the winner of the 3rd seed/6th seed matchup between the Twins and Blue Jays whose loss on Sunday pushed them down to the sixth seed.
For a team that has been banged up all season long, the extra week of rest should be welcome. However, be careful what you wish for with Houston getting a bye as the teams that got byes last season almost universally struggled in the first round after the long layoff. Look for the Astros to try to stay loose during the break before starting their playoff run next weekend.