By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Alex Bregman’s three extra-base hits included one of Houston’s four home runs, and the Astros trimmed their magic number to one for clinching the American League’s last playoff spot with a 12-4 win over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
George Springer and Jose Altuve also went deep with runners on base, and like Bregman finished with three hits and three RBIs. Houston had a 10-0 lead against Lance Lynn (6-3) before its rookie starter Cristian Javier gave up his only runs in the sixth.
Josh Reddick also had three hits, capped by a two-run homer in the ninth.
The Astros (29-28) have to win only one of their three remaining games against Texas to secure second place in the AL West, and a spot in baseball’s expanded playoff during the pandemic-shortened season. They also get in if the Angels (26-31) lose any in their final three-game series against the NL-best Dodgers.
Houston’s three-year reign as AL West champion has already been ended by Oakland. Seattle had the day off when the Astros won to eliminate them from the playoff chase.
Texas (19-38), which has lost four in a row, will finish at the bottom of the division.
Javier (5-2) struck out six while allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander walked one, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches. He held the Rangers without a run until Willie Calhoun’s two-run homer in the sixth.
Lynn, the 33-year-old workhorse who has another year left on his Texas contract, allowed a career-high 10 runs over 5 2-3 innings.
Bregman had an RBI triple and scored in the first to put Houston ahead to stay, and Springer’s 14th homer was a three-run shot on a 445-foot drive to straightway center in the second. Bregman hit a two-run homer in the fifth, an inning before Altuve’s three-run shot.
Bregman, Springer, Altuve and Reddick have been mainstays for the Astros in their recent playoff runs, including the 2017 World Series title and another AL pennant last year.
A’s right-hander Mike Fiers was the whistleblower in the Astros’ offseason sign-stealing scandal. He publicly called out his former club for cheating in an article published by The Athletic last November. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow lost their jobs after MLB’s investigation into the claims.
Veteran manager Dusty Baker was replaced Hinch just before spring training, and is in line to become the first major league manager to take five different teams to the postseason. He previously went to the playoffs managing the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.
Rangers: Rookie 3B Sherten Apostel left the game because of back spasms after an awkward diving attempt to field a ball in the second inning. He was replaced in the lineup by Andrew Romine, a veteran who made his first big league appearance since September 2018 with Seattle.
Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA), who started the season on the injured list after a positive COVID-19 test, starts for the Astros when they try to clinch their playoff spot. Rookie Kyle Cody (1-1) pitches for the Raners.