BOSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve coasted to his third AL batting title despite going hitless in two at-bats, and the Houston Astros scored four times in the seventh inning to rally from a three-run deficit and beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 on Sunday in a preview of their AL Division Series matchup.
Altuve finished the season with a .346 average to easily beat Avasail Garcia of the Chicago White Sox, who finished at .330, for the batting crown. The Astros second baseman is the third right-handed hitter since 1900 to win three or more batting titles.
One day after the Red Sox won to clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history, the teams filled out their lineups with backups to play a meaningless Game 162. Houston had already replaced starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel with Collin McHugh (5-2), and Boston manager John Farrell scratched ace Chris Sale after Saturday’s win so he could rest up for the playoffs.
The best-of-five ALDS begins Thursday in Houston.
Yuli Gurriel had two doubles and the go-ahead sacrifice fly for Houston, which won the four-game series 3-1 and took the season series against Boston 4-3. McHugh pitched six innings, allowing three runs to improve to 16-0 in September and October since 2014.
Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his fifth save for Houston, which won 101 games, the most since winning 102 in 1998.
The Astros started four regulars, and the Red Sox started two.
HOW THEY SCORED
The Red Sox got three in the fourth against McHugh when rookie Rafael Devers hit a two-run double, advanced on a single and scored on a passed ball.
Boston took a 3-0 lead into the seventh, when the first two batters reached to chase Brandon Workman, and then Fernando Abad (2-1) gave up RBI singles to Juan Centeno, Colin Moran and Tony Kemp. Gurriel’s sacrifice fly broke the 3-3 tie.
The Red Sox had not finished first in consecutive years since winning the pennant (and World Series) in the division-less AL in 1915-16. … The Red Sox matched last year’s total of 93 wins. John Farrell is the only manager ever to lead the Red Sox to three first-place finishes.
GETTING THEIR WORK IN
With three off days before the start of the playoffs, Astros pitcher Justin Verlander threw in the bullpen after Saturday’s game to get his work in. Keuchel preferred to face live batters, manager A.J. Hinch said, and threw from the Fenway mound before Sunday’s game.
Astros: OF Josh Reddick was seen by the trainer and should be able to work out on Tuesday, Hinch said. “If he can get a couple of good workouts in, he’ll be available on Thursday,” Hinch said. “The health part of it will be answered by then.”
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia sat out his second straight game to rest a sore left knee.
The teams begin the ALDS on Thursday, time and pitchers TBA. … The last teams to play each other in a regular-season finale and then in a postseason opener were the 2013 Reds and Pirates.
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