Carlos Correa and the Houston Astros are closing in on another AL West title after once again dominating their last rival Texas.
Manager Dusty Baker just doesn’t know how much attention his club pay to the standings.
Correa kicked off a seven-run fourth inning with a three-run homer, substitute starter Luis Garcia shutout in the sixth and the Astros beat the Texas Rangers 12-1 Thursday night.
The division-leading Astros remained seven games ahead of Oakland with 16 games remaining. They won three of four in their final series with the Rangers in last place.
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Houston is back home for three against Arizona, which has the worst record in the National League. The magic number for the 2017 World Series champions to clinch a Fourth Division title in the past five seasons is 10.
“I haven’t heard anyone discussing it or talking about it at all,” Baker said. “We’re just going to play ball. Whatever number is, you’re just trying to win and finish strong.”
Alex Bregman had the first of his pair of two-run singles in Houston’s big fourth. Yordan Alvarez lined up an RBI brace for outfielder DJ Peters, and Yuli Gurriel’s second single of the round scored Bregman. Chas McCormick’s 12th homer was a two-runner shot in the eighth.
Garcia (11-7) started after southpaw Framber Valdez was scratched with a cut to the index finger of his pitching hand. The injury occurred when Valdez put his hand on the outfield wall during batting practice Wednesday at the home of the one-year-old Rangers.
A strong contender for AL Rookie of the Year with 26 starts in his first full season, Garcia, 24, allowed one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. The run came from an out by Willie Calhoun, the first batter to face reliever Yimi García.
Luis Garcia’s ERA fell to 3.37.
“He’s been amazing for us,” Bregman said. “He works extremely hard on the days he’s not pitching. Super happy for him. I think he would win the Rookie of the Year award.”
Texas rookie Glenn Otto, who pitched five scoreless innings against his hometown team in his major league debut last month, added three more before the 25-year-old right-hander allowed nine of 10 batters of Houston to reach fourth and was replaced.
Otto (0-2) allowed seven hits and seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, pushing his ERA to 9.37 despite former Rice’s impressive start against the Astros.
“I wasn’t quite ahead of so many guys tonight from the start and I was able to fight for those first three innings,” said Otto. “I have to keep them trying to hit my shots as much as possible. The execution on that front wasn’t very good tonight.”
Correa’s 23rd home run – and Otto’s first in the majors – followed a starting single by Gurriel and a double by Kyle Tucker. Otto struck out Jose Siri at bat before going through loaded goals for Bregman, who picked the left. Alvarez and Gurriel added their hits before Tucker grounded in a double play.
Despite an 8-1 loss in Game 2 of the series, the Astros outscored the Rangers 35-12 in four games.
“We’re always talking about passing the torch to the next player, trying to keep batting good after batting good,” said Bregman, whose RBI is his season high. “When we do that I think we’re a really good offense.”
The Astros had long since clinched a fifth straight “Silver Boot” trophy, which goes to the winner of the seasonal series between rivals Lone Star State. Now Houston has the franchise’s 14 best wins over the Rangers, finishing with a 14-5 advantage. The margin over the five seasons is 56-30.
Astros: Valdez cut the same finger he broke early in spring training when he was hit in the hand by a free kick from Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets. The 27-year-old has missed the first two months of the season.
Astros: RHP Brandon Bielak (3-3, 4.47 ERA) is set for his first start of the season in Friday’s opener against the Diamondbacks. Baker said Valdez would likely do it again on Monday.
Rangers: LHP Taylor Hearn (6-4, 3.99 ERA) is ready for the first game of a three-game home series against Chicago, leader of AL Central. The White Sox swept three of the Rangers at home in the only other meeting in April.