For the first time since 2001, the Houston Astros are division champions.
The Astros clinched the AL West with their win over the Mariners on Sunday (HOU 7, SEA 1). Houston has been in sole possession of first place in the AL West since April 14, only 11 games in their season, and their lead grew so big that a division title was a foregone conclusion.
The division title is the first for the Astros since 2001, when they were in the NL Central. The club moved to the AL West for the 2013 season, which evened up the two leagues at 15 teams apiece. The Astros have gone to the postseason three times since 2001, all as a wild-card team.
- 2013: Lost to Royals in ALDS.
- 2005: Lost to White Sox in World Series.
- 2004: Lost to Cardinals in NLCS.
The Astros are, of course, one of eight teams that have never won the World Series, joining the Brewers, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rangers, Rays and Rockies. The Mariners and Nationals have never even won a pennant. That 2005 loss to the White Sox is the only time the Astros have played in the Fall Classic.
This 2017 division title is the result of a painstaking rebuild that started in earnest in 2011, when general manager Jeff Luhnow was hired. The Astros lost 324 total games from 2011-13, and the result was several high draft picks that netted the team players like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr. and Alex Bregman. Others like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel were already in the organization at the time, then took the next step as players.
After a disappointing 2016 season in which they went 84-78 -- just about everyone expected Houston to take a step forward after going 86-76 in 2015 -- the Astros dipped into the free agent market to sign quality veterans like Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick. They also traded for catcher Brian McCann. Then, during the summer, they picked up Justin Verlander in an Aug. 31 trade with the Tigers. This team is ready to win a World Series. The rebuild is over.
Now that the division title has been clinched, the next goal for the Astros is reclaiming the AL's best record, which would give them home-field advantage through at least the ALCS. The Indians, , currently have the league's best record at 93-57. The Astros are 1 1/2 games back at 91-58.