Astros celebrate AL West title after completing sweep of Mariners

Justin Verlander’s strong start helps the Astros win their sixth straight against the Mariners, the latest a 7-1 drubbing.

HOUSTON — The juxtaposition was stark.

As one team celebrated a division title in front of a cheering fan base, the other team quietly prepared for a long flight home where they could dwell on the distinct possibility that their postseason dream had been crushed by the team they simply couldn’t beat this season.

With a 7-1 drubbing of the Mariners on Sunday afternoon, the Houston Astros clinched the American League West title.

The players spilled from the dugout and sprinted in from the bullpen after Carlos Correa caught Kyle Seager’s bases-loaded pop out to end the game. A large, jumping group hug formed on the infield grass. It was Houston’s first division title since 2001.

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A few of the Mariners stood and watched, while others headed for the clubhouse with their heads down, refusing to watch something they likely won’t partake in this season.

“I’ve seen a few in my day, and I’ve been involved in a few,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who was a catcher on that 2001 Astros team. “When you are on the other side of it, it’s okay for guys take a look, especially young guys, and see what it’s all about.”

Speaking of 2001 that happens to be the last time the Mariners made the postseason — the longest drought in baseball. And it doesn’t appear to be getting snapped this season.

The Mariners lost their sixth straight game to the Astros and dropped to 74-76. The Mariners finished the season 5-14 against the Astros. No team in the AL West had a worse record against the division’s best team. The Angels finished 6-13 vs. Houston, while the A’s went 7-12. The Rangers still have three games left play against Houston, but have won seven games already this season.

“They’re a good ballclub and they’ve had our number all year,” Servais said. “They’ve beaten us. In a number of games that were very tight, they got the big hits and made the big plays late in the game and we didn’t.”

With 12 games left to play, the likelihood of Seattle overtaking the Twins seems improbable. It would require a stretch of baseball from the Mariners that hasn’t been typical this season. A comparison of Seattle’s remaining schedule to Minnesota’s (far easier) makes it seem that much more unlikely.

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