Gerrit Cole earned his career-high 20th win, added to his major league-leading strikeout total and finished the best ERA in the AL, wrapping up a dominant season for himself and the Houston Astros with an 8-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Cole (20-5) posted his franchise-record 16th straight win as the Astros wound up with the top record in the majors at 107-55 and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. They begin the playoffs Friday at home against the winner of the wild-card game between Tampa Bay and Oakland.
George Springer, Aledmys Diaz and Yuli Gurriel all homered to boost Houston.
In his last outing before the postseason, Cole allowed one earned run over five innings and struck out 10, lowering his ERA to 2.50. He fanned 326 in 213 1/3 innings, the most strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson had 334 in 2002 for Arizona.
Cole is the first pitcher in the majors to record double-digit strikeouts in nine consecutive games. He also became the first to reach 300 without throwing a complete game.
When Cole struck out Kaleb Cowart for the final out of the fifth inning, he punched the inside of his glove and got high-fives from all of his teammates in the dugout.
The 29-year-old righty nearly won the AL pitching Triple Crown — he finished second in the majors in wins to teammate Justin Verlander, who won 21. Verlander was second to Cole in the AL in strikeouts (300) and ERA (2.58).
Springer had a four-hit day with 3 RBI and two runs scored.
The Angels finished at 72-90, their fourth consecutive losing season. The Angels struggled through injuries to Mike Trout and others and the death of teammate Tyler Skaggs.
Matt Thaiss homered twice, doubled and drove in four runs for the Angels. He homered off Cole in the third inning, a first-pitch solo shot to center field. He hit a two-run homer off Brad Peacock in the sixth for his second career multihomer game. He added an RBI double in the eighth.
Dillon Peters (4-4) gave up three home runs. He allowed seven earned runs on seven hits in just 3 1/3 innings.
PUJOLS BY THE NUMBERS
Angels star Albert Pujols went 1 for 2 and hit .244 this year, dropping his career batting average to .29962. Pujols had a .328 career batting average when he left St. Louis after 11 major league seasons and joined the Angels for 2012. Before Sept. 18, his average had not been below .300 at the end of a game since a 4-for-14 start as a rookie in 2001.
LANGSTON RETURNS TO BALLPARK
Mark Langston returned to Angel Stadium Sunday for the first time since he suffered a cardiac arrest in the radio booth in Houston last week. He returned to Anaheim on Saturday and although he didn’t work the game, he was back and feeling grateful to be alive.
“I’m not going to lie. Life is different, I have to admit. When I see my grandson … it’s definitely different,” said Langston, who paused as he teared up. “I have to look at it that way. There was a reason I was given extra time. I don’t know what it is. There’s a reason for it. I haven’t even been emotional. That’s weird.”
Langston’s 6-year-old grandson, Ever, and family members and friends were with him on Sunday.
Angels: The Angels saw Trout have perhaps his best season and a career-high 45 home runs, utility infielder David Fletcher had a breakthrough year, Tommy La Stella became an All-Star for the first time in his career before fracturing his leg and Hansel Robles earned a career-high 23 saves. Other than that, the Angels had trouble. They suffered a litany of injuries that shut down Shohei Ohtani, Trout and Justin Upton to name a few before the season ended and couldn’t get any consistency from their starting rotation. None of their big free agent signings in Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill or Cody Allen panned out. It was a disappointment for Brad Ausmus in his first year managing the team. The Angels haven’t made the postseason since 2014.
Angels: Despite falling out of contention early in the summer, the Angels drew 3,019,012 (a figure that includes the two games in Mexico) for an average of 37,762 fans per home game. The Angels drew more than 3 million fans for the 17th consecutive season. Last year, the Angels drew 3,020,216 fans, averaging 37,286.