Alex Bregman (HOU): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Alex Bregman (HOU): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
On Tuesday morning, the Houston Astros sat three games back of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers with just six games left. There wasn’t much hope to win the division and there was concern that the squad might even miss the playoffs, vying for the final AL Wild Card spot with the upstart Seattle Mariners. But here we are just six days later, and not only are the Astros in the playoffs, but they’ve earned a division title, winning five of their final six games, including a crucial series victory over the Mariners, while the Rangers stumbled to the finish line. Now the Astros will host an ALDS series as the second seed in the American League while the Rangers travel to Tampa on Tuesday for a three-game Wild Card series against the Rays.
Bregman played a huge role in the Astros’ success down the stretch, especially on Sunday when he finished with a pair of extra-base hits, two runs scored, and two RBI in an 8-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the season finale. Bregman opened the scoring with a two-run home run in the first inning, taking a first-pitch fastball deep to left-center field to make it 2-0. In the second inning with the Astros already leading, 4-0, Bregman laced another first-pitch fastball deep to center for a triple and came around to score on a sacrifice fly later in the inning. It was another solid year for the Astros’ third baseman as he finished the regular season with 25 home runs, 98 RBI and 103 runs scored. He’ll look to carry the momentum into the playoffs this coming weekend.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday
Jonathan Aranda (TB): 3-5, 2B, HR, R, 6 RBI.
Junior Caminero (TB): 2-6, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The young Rays bats are leading the team into the playoffs, helping the team to a 12-8 victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. Aranda opened the scoring with a first-inning RBI single, spraying a curveball into right field with two strikes. He added a grand slam in the second inning, hammering a down-and-in fastball to the right field seats to extend the Tampa Bay lead to 8-0. He added an RBI double down the right-field line in the sixth for good measure. Even Aranda’s outs were well-struck, lining out to left-center in the fourth. All four of Aranda’s batted balls in play had an exit velocity topping 95.0 mph.
Caminero had two balls in play with an exit velocity of 107.0 mph or higher. The young infielder opened the game with a 108 mph groundout, right at Bo Bichette. He added an RBI single in the second inning, sending a sinker right back up the chute to drive in a run. In the fifth inning, Caminero put his opposite-field power on display, taking a sinker deep to right-center for his first career home run. In the continued absence of Wander Franco and until Brandon Lowe returns from injury, Caminero will be shouldering the load for the Rays in the middle infield as they head into the postseason.
Matt Vierling (DET): 3-4, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Vierling and the Tigers teed off on Lucas Giolito on Sunday afternoon, joining the hit parade against the tattered remains of the former All-Star. Vierling slapped a double down the right field line in the bottom of the third, and yanked a 414-foot two-run home run down the left field line, taking a 3-2 changeup deep. He added another double in the seventh inning for his third extra-base hit of the game. Vierling finished with career highs in nearly every offensive category, growing into an almost full-time role for the Tigers.
Dairon Blanco (KC): 3-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 SB.
Blanco showed both speed and power in the regular season finale, finishing with a home run and two stolen bases as the Royals took down the Yankees, 5-2. In his first at-bat of the game, Blanco singled up the middle, swiped second base, and came around to score later in the inning. In the fourth, Blanco sat on a sweeper and blasted it 423 feet to left center for a solo home run. He led off the sixth with a single and swiped his second base of the game, but was stranded on third. With amazing speed (22 stolen bases in just 134 plate appearances) and a tolerable .308 OBP, Blanco could potentially become what fantasy managers wanted Adalberto Mondesi to be if he manages to win a starting outfield position next season.
Tyler Heineman (TOR): 2-3, 3B, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Heineman finished with a pair of hits and three RBI as the Blue Jays fell short against the Rays in the season finale. In his first at-bat, Heineman laced a first-pitch sinker into the right-field corner for a two-run triple and scored later in the inning on a wild pitch. Heineman added an RBI infield single in the sixth inning but it wasn’t enough for the Jays to earn the win.
Nolan Jones (COL): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.
Jones continued his excellent rookie campaign with a combo meal on the final day of the season. Jones hit a mammoth blast, launching a 1-2 changeup 458 feet to right-center to put the Rockies on the board in the fourth inning. In the ninth, Jones earned a walk and stole second base, representing the winning run, but was stranded. Jones clearly set himself apart as the future of the Rockies organization with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in his rookie season. He will be a cornerstone of the Rockies moving forward, at least until it comes time to sign him to his next major contract.
Lane Thomas (WSH): 4-6, 2B, 2 R.
Thomas finished out a breakout season with four hits, including a double as the Nationals defeated the Braves, 10-9, in the season finale Sunday afternoon at Truist Park. Thomas’ first four-hit game of the season set the table for the rest of the lineup, as he came around to score a pair of runs as well. Thomas posted career highs in every offensive category, including 28 home runs and 20 stolen bases as the Nationals’ everyday outfielder. Clearly a cornerstone of Washington’s rebuild, Thomas will look to repeat his 2023 performance next season.
CJ Abrams (WSH): 2-6, R, RBI, 2 SB.
Abrams was a legitimate breakout star this season after struggling in his first taste of the big leagues in his previous campaign. The Nationals made a commitment to Abrams as the everyday shortstop and saw dividends in the way of 18 home runs, 47 stolen bases and 83 runs scored with a .245 batting average. On Sunday, Abrams opened the game with a single and stole second to tie the Washington Nationals‘ franchise stolen base record. He scored later in the inning as the Nationals took a 4-0 lead. In the eighth inning, Abrams legged out an RBI infield single to tie the game, 7-7, and stole another bag to set the Nationals’ team record with 47 bags swiped this year.