Street. PETERSBURG – For those who’ve been through many Astros festivities over the past seven years, champagne tasted as sweet as the first time. And for those who were having their first Monday night club party, it might even taste even better.
“I’ve never been part of a division-winning team before, which is amazing and I’m really excited,” said designated hitter Trey Mancini, who was acquired by the Astros from the Orioles on August 1.
“Same champagne, different outfit,” said catcher Christian Vasquez, who came the same day from Boston, where he won the world championships in 2018.
The Golden Age of Baseball Astros has begun – which this year includes new faces like Mancini, Vasquez and Jeremy Pena alongside veteran winners like Alex Bregman, Jose Altov and Justin Verlander. Houston clinched its fifth MLS title in six seasons by defeating Rhys 4-0 at Tropicana Field.
“We probably got a half a dozen or so starters, and I just want these guys to have fun with it because they did their best to get to that point,” said Dusty Becker, Astros director. “We didn’t know what we got in spring training. We expected to win it, but we didn’t know we were going to win it that much. But they were just crunching and crunching and crunching. That’s the key. They were consistent every month, and these guys love each other. That’s what Loved.”
When Houston beat the Mets on June 21, it opened a 10-game lead in the division. There were still nearly 100 games left, and the Astros weren’t about to let their foot out of the gas. Instead, they developed their lead behind a dominant cast and offense led by burgeoning superstar Yordan Alvarez.
“There are a lot of players here, it will be their first time in the post-season,” said Bergmann. “It’s a huge achievement and he will never get old.”
For those who thought the Astros’ window of contention was closing, players provided a reminder that it’s still pretty much still open. Houston heads into the playoffs for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, and continues to win despite losing key players like Gerrit Cole, George Springer and Carlos Correa to the free agents in the past few years.
“I think this football club expects to do well on a daily basis,” said Bergman. “We take a lot of pride in getting out there every day and playing hard, and these guys are preparing. They show up, they compete and they stick to a high standard. That’s very important in the championship teams.”
Hector Neres was one of the first players to sign a free agent deal with the Astros last December in hopes of getting his first qualifying experience. So when he hit Yandy Diaz in the final on Monday, he led Houston’s celebration on the field and in the dugout.
“Hey brother, I’m very happy today, I can’t say too many things,” said Neres. “Thank you Houston for supporting me here, and I will be here for a long time. I love you.”
That brought a smile to the face of Verlander, one of five Houston players for the 2017 World Championships.
It’s fun being a part of those at a time,” Verlander said. “It’s not really getting old. I think a lot of guys here have done this a few times, and they know the deal. Hector was probably driving the shipment today – his first time. I think everyone was partying and having fun together.”
With the win, the Astros bid farewell to the AL Division Series, which would have the home field advantage. Houston can now turn its attention to achieving the best record in AL. The magic number for the Astros to grab the top seed is seven over the Yankees.
“This is the beginning,” Becker said. “You have to get to that point first, then move on to the next point and the next point. You should be grateful for where we are now and then back to tomorrow.”
Altuve, the Astros’ longest-serving player, started the game with his eleventh lead of the season. Houston added sixth with three runs, including a running double by Bergman. Luis Garcia (five runs), Hunter Brown (three rounds) and Neres handed out the Astros’ Best 16 Vocal Closing Ceremony award.
“It looks like the first [celebration]said Altuve, who suffered over three straight seasons of 100 losses before reaping the fruits of his rebuilding efforts in Houston. “We are all really happy. It is a big thing for us to win the degree and go to the playoffs. It is very special for us.”
At 97-51, the Astros need just three wins to reach 100 in a season for the fourth time since 2017 (the fourth time in the past five full seasons). They would also equal the club’s winning record of 107 if they managed to win 10 of their last 14 matches.
“We love to win,” said Ryan Presley. “We go to the park every day and expect to win. That’s kind of ingrained in us. When you have that throughout the culture of this organization, it translates into the big leagues. We love to win and we know how to win, and we keep working every day we come on the field.”
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