Astros clinch AL West again

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken

HOUS­TON — Ge­orge Springer, Justin Ver­lan­der and the Astros put a check mark in the Septem­ber box.

And amid the cel­e­bra­tion of clinch­ing their third straight AL West ti­tle, they al­ready were think­ing ahead to what they might achieve in Oc­to­ber.

“You can't ever take the first goal for granted,” Ver­lan­der said. “I know every­body says we're go­ing to win the World Se­ries, but you can't do that with­out this first.”

Springer hit a ca­reer­high three homers, Ver­lan­der posted his MLB-lead­ing 20th win and the Astros se­cured the divi­sion crown by rout­ing the An­gels 13-5 on Sun­day.

A crowd cheer­ing from Ver­lan­der's first pitch got even louder as Springer home­red three times in the first four in­nings. The Astros im­proved to 102-54, a half-game ahead of the Yankees for the best record in the ma­jors.

Af­ter the fi­nal out, the Astros held a bounc­ing group hug in the mid­dle of the di­a­mond and posed for a team pic­ture. It hasn't been de­ter­mined who they will face in the play­offs as they try for their sec­ond World Se­ries cham­pi­onship in three years.

Springer, the 2017 World Se­ries MVP, had two chances to tie the big league record for home runs in a game. He popped up with the bases loaded in the fifth and grounded out in the sev­enth.

Ver­lan­der yielded six hits and two runs in five in­nings to reach 20 wins for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer and the first since win­ning the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011 with the Tigers.

ERIC CHRIS­TIAN SMITH/AP

Ge­orge Springer claps af­ter the Astros clinched their third straight divi­sion ti­tle.

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