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Astros slug their way to the top of the AL West with 16 homers in 3 games to sweep Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Houston Astros made quite a powerful statement while slugging themselves back to the top of the AL West.

By going deep 16 times while sweeping the Texas Rangers on the road, the Astros set a franchise record for the most homers in any three-game span. They also matched a major league record with at least five homers in three consecutive games. And most importantly for the reigning World Series champions, they have sole possession of the division lead for the first time all season.

“I don’t look back too much on memorable series, but this was a big one for us, especially the magnitude of it … and what it meant to win this series,” manager Dusty Baker said.

Houston outscored the Rangers 39-10 in the series that wrapped up with a 12-3 win on Wednesday night, when José Abreu hit a grand slam and a three-run homer. The Astros’ 10th slam of the season put them up 7-1 in the third against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was done after that inning.

“If there’s one person that gets impressed by what this team can do, it’s me because I’m new here,” said Abreu, the 36-year-old first baseman who played the past nine seasons for the Chicago White Sox before his $58.5 million, three-year deal with Houston. “I think that this organization, these guys, when the lights are shining bright, they know how to handle things, they know how to do things well. I’m just very grateful to be part of this as well.”

With 21 games left in the regular season, and a day off Thursday, Houston (80-61) has a one-game division lead over Seattle and a three-game edge over Lone Star State rival Texas. The Astros have won the AL West five of the last six seasons, made it to the AL Championship six consecutive times and been to four World Series in that span, winning two of them.

But they had never had a slugging series like the one they just finished against the Rangers.

Eight different Houston players went deep in the series, with five of them hitting multiple homers. Before striking out to start the finale and going 0 for 4, Jose Altuve had five homers in the first two games. The Astros leadoff hitter homered in each of the first three innings Tuesday night, before the Nos. 7-9 batters in the Texas lineup had even had a turn at the plate in the Astros’ 14-1 win.

That was after Altuve also homered in the ninth inning of their 13-6 win in the series opener on Labor Day, meaning hit long balls in four consecutive innings played.

Both of Altuve’s homers Monday came right after Mauricio Dubón went deep, marking the first time in major league history that a team’s No. 9 batter and leadoff hitter twice went back-to-back in the same game.

They went back-to-back from bottom-to-top again Tuesday when Martin Maldonado was batting ninth, and his first homer came right before Altuve went deep for the third time. The Astros also had consecutive homers in the finale, when Abreu’s three-run shot in the ninth inning to match his career high with seven RBIs came right before Chas McCormick went deep.

“You kind of like being where we are. The guys were ready. We jumped them early and got in their tired bullpen,” Baker said after the finale. “I’ve been Scherzer a lot better. He left some pitches up on the zone, some breaking balls, and our guys didn’t miss them.”

They hit them out of the park.

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