PHOENIX – Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch gathered his players around, took a puff from his victory cigar and told everyone to quiet down.
"You can say a lot of things about this team, but one thing they're going to say forever: We're a playoff team," Hinch told them while standing in puddles of beer and champagne.
It's hard to blame Finch and the Astros for letting loose. Their 10-year wait is over.
A 5-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday wasn't enough to spoil what they've done this season. The Astros are headed to the AL wild card, their first playoff appearance since facing the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series and, yes, it feels awfully good.
"We didn't have the results a couple of years ago that we wanted, but we worked hard to be at this point," said Houston's Jose Altuve, who reached 200 hits for the second time in his career.
The Astros had two straight 100-loss seasons to end their tenure in the National League, tacked on another after switching to the AL in 2013. Last season was only marginally better; Houston lost 92 games.
Given little chance this season, Houston overcame a midseason slide by playing some of its best baseball down the stretch. The Astros won six of seven to take a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels headed into Sunday and clinched in the eighth inning, when they learned Texas had beaten the Angels.
The Astros shared a few high fives in the dugout when the Angels score was posted and really let loose in the clubhouse, spraying champagne and beer in the air while several chants broke out.
Houston finished 86-76 to reach the postseason and will play its first American League playoff game Tuesday night, against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"It's only the tip of the iceberg for us," Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick said.