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Astros won with pitching, defense, home runs

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The Astros started strong and rode the momentum of that to a spot in the postseason as one of the two American League wild card teams. It took until the 162nd game of the season to assure themselves a spot, but they played just well enough in the final week to hold off the Angels.

The story of Houston's season is one that starts with starting pitching.

One-two at the top

The Astros may not have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but they have a standout one-two at the top of the rotation in Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.

Keuchel finished with an AL-best 20 wins and placed a hair behind David Price for the AL ERA lead. He went 12-3 with a 2.52 ERA in the regular season, including 2-0 with no runs allowed in 16 innings against the Yankees, whom he’ll face on Tuesday night.

Keuchel also leads all pitchers in Defensive Runs Saved, thanks to his aggressiveness on the mound. And speaking of defense, the Astros pitching staff has been the beneficiaries of some strong fielding. The Astros entered the final day of the season ranked first in the American League in Defensive Runs Saved.

McHugh started 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in his first six starts and was 6-0 with a 3.63 ERA in his last seven starts. He cleared 200 innings for the first time in his career and is 30-16 in the last two seasons after starting his career 0-8.

Mr. Consistency

Second baseman Jose Altuve put together another strong season for the Astros. He led the American League in hits and stolen bases for the second straight season. Altuve did have a nice power surge, more than doubling his career high by hitting 15 home runs.

Altuve reached 200 hits on the final day of the season. He’s the only player in Astros history with multiple 200-hit seasons.

Live by the long ball, die by the strikeout

The Astros finished with 230 home runs, the most in the majors and their most in a season since they had 249 in 2000. They had five players hit at least 20 home runs, though none hit 30.

The team ranked second in the majors in strikeouts by their hitters, finishing with fewer than only the Cubs.

Circle these games

The tone setter for the season was a 10-game winning streak that turned an 8-7 start into an 18-7 start and a seven-game lead. That included a three-game sweep of the Athletics and a four-game sweep of the Mariners. The last of those wins came on an eighth-inning go-ahead home run by Evan Gattis.

Carlos Correa also put together a memorable highlight reel in his 99 starts. In a July 3 win over the Red Sox, he had a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning and a go-ahead hit in the 10th inning. On August 19, he had his first career walk-off hit, in the 13th inning against the Rays after Gattis tied it on a hit with two outs in the ninth.