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It's been another incredible season for JV, who got his 20th win on Sunday.
It's been another incredible season for JV, who got his 20th win on Sunday.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Astros Clinch AL West, Verlander Gets 20th: Four Winners, Four Losers

For more than a month now, the Astros clinching the AL West was merely a formality. On Sunday, the Astros collected win 102 over the Angels with three home runs from George Springer and the 20th victory for Justin Verlander. With just seven games remaining, the only remaining goal in the regular season is home field advantage.

Right now, the Astros celebrate and so do we with winners and losers.

Winners

Justin Verlander

Considering his age, it is remarkable what JV is doing for the Astros. It's difficult to imagine when he steps on the mound that he won't win or at least give the team seven innings of winning pitching. He leads the American League in a number of categories, which would be impressive if another guy on his own staff wasn't doing virtually the same thing. He and Gerrit Cole have been brilliant. JV got his 20th on Sunday. Cole will probably do that before the season is over.

Juiced Baseballs

Love them or hate them, it's impossible to ignore the explosion of home runs this season. New analytics may have shifted things away from station-to-station baseball, but it seems clear that the baseball is different. On Sunday, George Springer sent three of them out of the park. Alex Bregman added another as did Aledmys Diaz (albeit by about an inch). Some may hate it, but the Astros love it and they are taking advantage.

Deshaun Watson

Ok, he's not an Astro and he plays in the NFL, but holy crap, did you see him on Sunday? Dude is ridiculous.

Steve Sparks

If you have never heard the Astros radio color commentator after they have won a pennant or a playoff series, do some searching on the internet immediately. His amazing participatory rantings inside the club house after such wins are becoming something of legend. Listen to him getting doused by "brewsKEES" and you'll never be the same.

Losers

AL West at Minute Maid Park (and everyone else too)

Members of the American Leagued West won exactly three games at Minute Maid Park this season. That wouldn't seem like much of a big deal unless the team playing there was in the same division like the Astros are. But, it's not surprising considering the Astros finished the season with the best home record in baseball.

Wade Miley/Framber Valdez

For a couple of guys who were supposed to shore up the back end of the rotation, things sure have gone badly. Valdez hasn't been great for most of the year, but Miley has suddenly saw his game fall off a cliff. In three of his last four starts he played only a single inning or less. At the same time Brad Peacock has been making a very solid comeback and Jose Urquidy has come seemingly out of nowhere, complicating playoff roster choices.

Champagne Enthusiasts

Anyone who loves champagne and hate to see it wasted would want to avert their eyes from the Astros postgame celebration where, had you sealed off the locker room in concrete, the entire team may have drowned.

Records

They are falling all over the place as the season draws to a close. There's a fairly good chance two guys will end up with 40 home runs and another two will get 20 wins. There are two potential Cy Young winners in the rotation, an MVP candidate at third base and the presumptive AL rookie of the year smashing hitting records all year long. And then there's that whole franchise best record that is going down this week.

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