(The Sports Xchange) - Houston lost to Arizona 5-3 on Sunday when Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, but the Astros still managed to clinch their first playoffs berth since 2005.
Houston (86-76) qualified when the Texas Rangers beat the Angels to claim the AL West title and eliminate Los Angeles from playoff contention.
“Nobody else outside this clubhouse thought we had a chance,” Houston manager AJ Hinch told his players in a champagne-soaked dressing room.
“They said a lot of things about this team, right? One thing they are going to say forever is that we are a playoff team. I’ll bet on this team. I love you (guys).”
The Astros will play the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five AL Division Series against the Royals beginning on Thursday in Kansas City.
AL Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel (20-8) will start on Tuesday for the Astros on three days’ rest, Hinch said.
“What matters right now is that we are going to the playoffs,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said.
“We’re going to play hard every day, no matter what.”
Altuve had two singles and a triple on Sunday to reach 200 hits for the second time in his career.
Altuve and Craig Biggio are the only Astros to compile at least 200 hits in a season. Altuve had 225 hits in 2014, and Craig Biggio had 210 in 1998.
“I‘m not going to lie to you, it feels good to get 200 hits,” Altuve said. “But I just wanted to help my team win.”
Arizona’s Goldschmidt had two hits and scored twice. Center fielder A.J. Pollock had three hits, including his 20th homer.
Goldschmidt’s homer, his 33rd, came after Pollock singled, stole second and took third on a wild pitch by right-hander Chad Qualls (3-5).
“I wish I hadn’t given up a two-run homer, but I’ll take it, move on, no big deal,” Qualls said.
“We made the playoffs, that’s awesome.”
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury