Astros clinch home field in AL playoffs, beat Angels 4-0
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Alex Bregman hit his 41st homer, Michael Brantley added a three-run shot in the eighth inning and the Houston Astros clinched home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs with a 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Rookie José Urquidy (2-1) pitched six innings of three-hit ball and Will Harris threw an immaculate inning of relief in the 10th win in 12 games for Houston (105-55), which extended its franchise record for victories.
Houston will face either Tampa Bay or Oakland, who play Wednesday night in the AL wild-card game, in the Division Series.
The AL West champion Astros clinched home field in a potential ALCS against the Yankees (103-57). Houston won four of seven over New York during the regular season to claim the tiebreaker. The Yankees and Minnesota will meet in the other ALDS.
The Astros also stayed at least one game ahead of the Dodgers, who have clinched the NL's best record. Houston beat Los Angeles in the 2017 World Series to claim its first championship, winning Game 7 on the road.
If the Astros and Dodgers finish with the same regular season record and meet in the World Series again, Houston would host Game 1 by virtue of its superior intradivisional record.
Harris struck out Kaleb Cowart, Matt Thaiss and Michael Hermosillo on nine pitches in the eighth for the sixth immaculate inning in Astros history, and their first since 2004. Houston's dominant right-hander has allowed just two runs in his last 21 appearances.
The Angels (72-88) managed just three singles and didn't get a runner to second base in their 11th shutout loss. Los Angeles would have to win its final two games to avoid finishing with the beleaguered franchise's worst record of the 21st century.
Bregman led off the second inning with his ninth homer in September, picking up the 111th RBI of his MVP-caliber season.
The Astros had just one hit between Bregman's shot and the eighth, where Brantley connected for his 22nd homer - his first extra-base hit since Sept. 9 - to deep center with two outs.
Patrick Sandoval (0-4) finished his rookie season winless for the Angels, but still pitched two-hit ball into the fourth inning while on a 60-pitch count. The 22-year-old Mission Viejo native reached the majors in August as the 29th pitcher used by the Halos this season due to their numerous rotation problems.
Urquidy made his increasingly strong case for a once-unlikely postseason rotation spot with another strong appearance in September.
The Mexican right-hander has allowed just three runs and 10 hits over 18 innings in four appearances this month. Urquidy has outpitched veteran Wade Miley, who once appeared certain to get the spot behind the Astros' big three starters. Manager AJ Hinch has said he won't make his decision on the fourth starter until later.
Bregman went 1 for 3 with a homer and a walk in the home stadium of his top rival for the AL MVP award. Mike Trout is out for the season with a right foot injury, but the two-time winner leads the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and WAR, and is tied for the lead in homers (45). Bregman leads in walks, is third in homers and OPS, and has more RBIs than Trout.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa's availability for the AL division series will be determined during workouts next week. He has made only 11 plate appearances since Aug. 19, and he is missing the final week of the regular season to rest his bad back.
Angels: Tommy La Stella went 0 for 4 as the Angels' designated hitter in his first appearance since July 2, when he broke his leg on a foul ball. La Stella was selected for his first All-Star Game appearance shortly before the injury, which ruined the reward for his breakthrough season during his first chance at regular playing time in the big leagues. La Stella is expected to return to the Angels next season since he is still under team control.
Justin Verlander (20-6, 2.53 ERA) makes his final case for the AL Cy Young award when he faces José Suárez (2-6, 7.34 ERA) in the regular season's penultimate game.
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