The Astros, who beat the Mariners, 7-1, on Sunday to take their first division title since winning the National League Central in 2001, have their eyes set on capturing the best record in the AL, which means holding off the Red Sox and passing the Indians.
The Astros (91-58) are 1 1/2 games behind the Indians (93-57) for the best record in the AL and six games ahead of the Red Sox, who hold down the third seed and would meet the Astros in the AL Division Series if these standings hold. Houston and Boston end the year with four games in a row against each other.
"The No. 1 priority is to win the division," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We set out that goal right away from the beginning of Spring Training. We wanted to take care of our own business and win the division. We did that. We need 11 wins in October to make it even more special. The fact we could clinch it at home in front of our home fans, a really special feeling for a really special group of guys."
The Astros will open the playoffs with Game 1 of the best-of-five ALDS on Thursday, Oct. 5. The rest of the series is mapped out no matter who they play: Game 2 on Oct. 6, Game 3 on Oct. 8, Game 4 (if necessary) on Oct. 9 and Game 5 (if necessary) on Oct. 11. Getting the top seed in the AL would not only give them home-field advantage in the ALDS and the AL Championship Series, but it would also allow them to face the AL Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS instead of the Red Sox or Indians.
"Cleveland is playing excellent baseball," designated hitter Carlos Beltran said. "Now, you know, we have these games to hopefully make a run and try to get that back. That's the mentality right now."
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the team will shoot for the top seed with the same vigor it did the division title.
"We know we're going to have three days off [before the start of the ALDS], so there will be plenty of time to rest guys," he said. "I think at this point, it's all hands on deck to try and win the games and get that lead back."
The Astros lost five of six to the Indians early in the season and lost two of three to the Red Sox in Houston in June. Houston will travel to Fenway Park to close the regular season in what could be a preview of the ALDS.
"We're going to stay locked in," Hinch said. "We can't let up mentally. We've got to be prepared to play in October. We get a little bit of a head start. A couple of teams have clinched before us, but we've got a pretty good head start to get ready for October."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.