"King" Felix Hernandez isn't the pitcher he once was. Far from it, in fact. But, he's not give-up-11-runs-in-two-innings beyond his halcyon days on the mound. On Sunday, however, the Astros absolutely demolished Hernandez and the rest of the Mariners staff as they rolled to a 21-1 victory at Minute Maid Park, sweeping the series. Houston has gone 16-1 against them (with two to go, God help Seattle), the most wins against an opponent in a season in franchise history.
On the opening Sunday in the NFL, the Astros had the fourth largest margin of victory for any game in professional sports. It's only the second time in baseball history a team has scored 20 or more runs and given up only one.
Gerrit Cole picked up his 16th win giving up a single hit — a solo home run — in eight innings including 15 strikeouts. It was his sixth start of the season with double-digit strikeouts and no walks tying a MLB record. Despite Justin Verlander's recent no-hitter and a brilliant outing on Saturday when we he gave up just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts, Cole is making his own case for the AL Cy Young Award.
If that weren't enough, the Astros set the franchise record for doubles in a game with 11 including three from Yourdan Alvarez, who seems to be coming out of a recent mini slump, and Kyle Tucker, another youngster who is proving to be worth a longer look this September.
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With the win, the Astros have the best record in baseball as they own the tiebreaker over the Yankees. At 94-50, they need only go 10-8 over their remaining 18 games to set the franchise record for wins, eclipsing 2018's 103. Given their remaining schedule and continued dominance, they seem set to shatter that by a fairly wide margin.
At this point, the only things left to play for are home field advantage in the postseason, opportunities for young players like Tucker to carve out a spot potentially on the playoff roster and rehab opportunities for players like Carlos Correa and Ryan Pressly.
They now welcome the A's for Oakland's one final chance to gain even a little ground on the team nearly ten games ahead of them in the standings. The Astros have only two losses all season against team from their own division. In addition to the A's, their remaining series include division games against the Rangers, Angels (7 games) and the Mariners in Seattle. They also travel to Kansas City.
Their sights are obviously set much higher than franchise records and pounding inferior opponents, but if games like Sunday and a powder puff remaining schedule helps them get where they want to go, they will no doubt take it.