PHOENIX -- When the Chase Field scoreboard flashed the final score in the seventh inning indicating the Rangers had beaten the Angels on Sunday, Astros manager A.J. Hinch quickly hugged bench coach Trey Hillman in the dugout and then got back to business.
The Astros had clinched their first postseason berth in 10 years, earning a spot in the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser with the Angels' loss. Had the Astros been able to pull off a win over the D-backs on Sunday, they would have hosted the Yankees, but a 5-3 loss meant they were headed for the Big Apple.
PHOENIX -- By the time the Astros' regular season ended with a 5-3 loss to the D-backs, they had already been assured of a Wild Card spot by way of the Rangers' division-clinching 9-2 win over the Angels.
With the Yankees' 9-4 loss to the Orioles, the Astros could have earned the right to host the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser with a win, but Paul Goldschmidt's towering two-run home run off Houston reliever Chad Qualls in the seventh inning put the D-backs on top to stay at Chase Field.
PHOENIX -- Perhaps the only thing more advantageous than the Astros having the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at home would be sending Dallas Keuchel to the mound to face Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Keuchel, the only 20-game winner in the American League and a front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, will get the ball on three days' rest for the Astros when they meet the Yankees at 7 p.m. CT (on ESPN) Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Keuchel is 2-0 in two starts against the Yankees and hasn't allowed a run in 16 innings against them.
Postseason baseball returns to the Bronx after a two-year absence Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. ET when the Yankees host the Astros in the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on ESPN.
As usual, the drama will be centered on hitting, defense and the marquee pitching matchup between New York ace Masahiro Tanaka and Houston Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel. What may be unique is the role the venue might play.
PHOENIX -- It was on the final day of the season a year ago that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve talked his way into the lineup and wound up getting a pair of hits to win the American League batting title (.341) and finish the campaign with a club-record 225 hits.
Altuve came to the plate in the ninth inning on Sunday at Chase Field with another individual accomplishment on the line. Sitting at 199 hits, Altuve singled to right field to become the first Astros player in history to have multiple 200-hit seasons. He finished with a .313 average, third in the AL batting race while leading the league in hits.
Keuchel (17-7, 2.22 ERA) is tied for the American League lead in wins, ranks first in the AL in ERA and leads the Majors in ERA. Shortstop Correa enters Tuesday hitting .276 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 81 games. McCullers is 5-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 18 starts since being called up from Double-A Corpus Christi.
It took every out of all 162 games, but we finally have a matchup and a venue for the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. The Yankees will host the Astros on Tuesday evening at 8 ET on ESPN with both clubs appearing in a Wild Card Game for the first time.
Houston beat New York four out of seven times during the regular season, including two of three at Yankee Stadium from Aug. 24-26.
Jim Crane had a vision of what the Houston Astros could be from the moment he purchased the franchise almost four years ago. He entrusted that vision to general manager Jeff Luhnow. So this celebration of the franchise's first postseason appearance in 10 years begins with them.
They never wavered from their vision. They suffered 310 losses in their first three seasons together. They relentlessly stayed the course, adding young talent and affordable free agents. They said they wanted to build something permanent, something that will sustain itself.
PHOENIX -- The Astros crashed baseball's postseason party, winning 86 games and clinching the second American League Wild Card berth on the final day of the regular season Sunday. No one expected them to contend for a playoff spot, much less reach the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
Like most teams, a lot had to go right for the Astros to make the postseason. Here are five things that changed their season as they head into the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN:
HOUSTON -- Though the results of the Astros' storybook 2015 season were unforeseen, the production the postseason-bound bunch got from its two leaders was not.
Ace and American League Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel had the best home split of any pitcher in Major League history and was the AL's only 20-game winner, while Jose Altuve, who recorded his second consecutive 200-hit season with a three-hit finale, led the AL with 38 stolen bases and finished third with a .313 average.
Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Before they were postseason bound: Astros
The Astros are headed to the postseason for the first time since their World Series appearance in 2005, and here's the skinny on the origins of every player wearing the H-Star.
Dallas Keuchel, LHP
Born: Tulsa, Okla.
HS: Bishop Kelley (Okla.) High School
College: University of Arkansas
Minors: Tri City (A-), Lancaster (A+), Corpus Christi (AA), Oklahoma City (AAA)
• Keuchel was a two-time conference Pitcher of the Year while at Bishop Kelley High and he also played quarterback for the school's football team.
• Keuchel and Rays southpaw Drew Smyly were roommates at Arkansas, where they led the Razorbacks to an appearance in the 2009 College World Series.
• Keuchel made his Major League debut at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 2012, the same park where he attended his first Major League game as a child.
PHOENIX -- The Astros' season will not come to an end Sunday. That much they ensured by winning for the sixth time in seven games, 6-2, behind two homers by Colby Rasmus and a strong pitching performance from Collin McHugh on Saturday night at Chase Field.
With the Angels rallying to beat the Rangers earlier Saturday, the Astros enter the final day of the regular season one game behind the first-place Rangers in the American League West and a game ahead of the Angels in the race for the AL's final Wild Card spot. Houston can not be eliminated on Sunday.
PHOENIX -- One day after Dallas Keuchel became the only 20-game winner in the American League, Astros teammate Collin McHugh nestled up behind him on the leaderboard by notching his 19th victory.
McHugh (19-7) held the D-backs to one run and six hits in seven innings in a 6-2 win to improve to 10-2 with a 3.11 ERA in his final 14 starts of the season. McHugh and Keuchel are the first Astros duo to win at least 19 games each since 1999, when Mike Hampton went 22-4 and Jose Lima 21-10.
PHOENIX -- Not much gets to Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus. He never seems to feel pressure, never seems to be fazed. That's suited him rather well as the regular season comes to close.
Rasmus went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs -- giving him a career high 25 -- in a 6-2 win over the D-backs on Saturday night at Chase Field that ensured the Astros will play beyond Sunday. Rasmus has three homers in the first two games of the series, and he's only starting because Carlos Gomez aggravated his left intercostal strain on Wednesday.
PHOENIX -- Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez was out of the starting lineup again on Saturday. He was out Friday after aggravating the left intercostal injury that kept him out for more than two weeks at the end of September on his game-ending throw Wednesday in Seattle.
Gomez is available to pinch-run and play defense, but Manager A.J. Hinch said said he's likely to play it safe.
PHOENIX -- The Astros hit four home runs in support of left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who recorded his 20th win, as Houston moved a step closer to its first postseason berth in 10 years with a 21-5 rout of the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field.
PHOENIX -- He started the All-Star Game for the American League, he was three times named the AL Pitcher of the Month, and on Friday night at Chase Field he became the seventh Astros pitcher -- and second lefty -- to win 20 games in a season. Is the Cy Young Award next?
Dallas Keuchel didn't want to hear of that after holding the D-backs to two runs and six hits in six innings in a 21-5 rout that pushed Houston a step closer to clinching a postseason spot. At 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA over 232 innings, Keuchel is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award whether he's ready to admit it or not.
Astros slugger 1st player since 1962 to notch at least 10 triples with no steals
By Spencer Fordin
Evan Gattis might not be fleet of foot, but he's working on a season for the ages.
Gattis, the Astros' 260-pound designated hitter, is the first Major League player in more than 50 years to hit more than 10 triples without stealing a base. Gattis, who delivered his 11th triple of the season on Wednesday, trails just two players in history who have had more triples without a stolen base.
By Andrew Erickson and Brian McTaggart
SEATTLE -- Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez, in the starting lineup for the first time in more than two weeks because of a pesky rib-cage muscle injury, caught a line drive off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth inning and fired a laser to first to double up the runner for a dramatic ending to a wild game.
While Gomez lay on the ground in disbelief, his teammates joyously spilled onto the field to celebrate a resilient 7-6 win over the Mariners on Wednesday night at Safeco Field that vaulted the Astros back into the second spot in the American League Wild Card race.
SEATTLE -- If the Astros are able to hold on and make the postseason, they could look back on Chris Carter's sixth-inning home run Wednesday night at Safeco Field as being the biggest hit of the season.
The red-hot Carter blasted a game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth off J.C. Ramirez, and the Astros scratched out another run to beat the Mariners, 7-6, and move back into the second Wild Card spot in the American League with only three games remaining.
SEATTLE -- Tom Lawless, who managed the Astros for the final 24 games of last season on an interim basis to replace Bo Porter, was among a handful of Minor League staffers who were dismissed by the club.
Lawless had just finished his seventh season with the Astros, serving this year as a developmental specialist at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros are eliminating the position of developmental specialist as part of their offseason Minor League restructuring, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday. Jeff Murphy, a developmental specialist at Triple-A Fresno who was on the big league staff in 2013, was also dismissed, along with Class A Quad Cities developmental specialist Tim Garland, and others.
SEATTLE -- What really bothers veteran relief pitcher Pat Neshek is that he feels good on the mound. That's what makes the eighth inning Tuesday so hard for him to take. That's what makes the month of September so hard to swallow.
Neshek's troublesome month continued in a 6-4 loss to the Mariners, giving up a game-deciding, two-run single off the bat off Shawn O'Malley with two outs that dealt the Astros' playoff hopes a blow. For the first time since April 18, the Astros are on the outside, looking in at the postseason race.
SEATTLE -- One year ago on Tuesday, A.J. Hinch was hired to manage the Houston Astros. It was the day after the 92-loss 2014 season ended.
It was just 52 weeks ago, a mere 365 days. It, however, seems like light years ago in terms of where the Astros were and where they are -- especially in terms of how the hiring was viewed at the time, and the way Hinch is now viewed in his role as a big league manager.
SEATTLE -- Catcher Hank Conger returned to the Astros' lineup Tuesday in Seattle for the first time since Sept. 17. Conger has been dealing with a sore right shoulder, but he threw to the bases Monday at Safeco Field and told manager A.J. Hinch he was ready to go.
"Obviously, I tweaked the shoulder a little bit," Conger, who went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in Houston's 6-4 loss, said. "I know we're in the race, but at the same time, I want to make sure everything's 100 percent so that nothing gets re-aggravated. I threw to bases, felt good, felt 100 percent, so I'm pretty excited to get back in there today."