Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – The stage was set Sunday afternoon. If the Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners, they would clinch the organization’s first division title since 2001.
After beating the Mariners Saturday afternoon, the Astros magic number was down to just one game, and if the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lost to the Texas Rangers later that night, they would have clinched without even playing.
“It’s going to be cool if they do lose,” Josh Reddick said after Saturday’s win. “You always want to do it on your own accord.”
The Astros right-fielder would get his wish, as the Angels would end up winning.
Lucky for the Astros, they were tossing Justin Verlander, who was making his first home start since joining the team at the waiver-trade deadline.
Verlander would dominate the Mariners, his lone hiccup would come in the third inning, after sitting the first seven batters, he gave up a one-out solo home run to Ben Gamel, giving them an early 1-0 lead.
The right-handed flamethrower in total would toss seven innings, allowing three hits, and one walk, while striking out 10. Since joining the Astros, Verlander has tossed 21 innings, allowed two earned runs (both solo home runs), good enough for a 0.86 ERA.
With Verlander keeping the Mariners bats in check, he needed some run support but it would be hard to find early.
The offense would put runners on in three of the first four innings, but they would not be able to drive them in.
That would change in the fifth, Yuli Gurriel led off the inning with a single and Derek Fisher followed with a massive blast off
Andrew Moore, taking a 0-1 fastball for a ride, bouncing it off the centerfield wall putting the Astros back in front. The Astros would not be done scoring in the inning, and after a pitching change, Marwin Gonzalez would launch his own two-run home run, this time off of James Pazos.
“As a starter, it doesn’t matter what the score is your goal is just to keep your guys in the game and we can score runs in bunches and they showed that,” Justin Verlander said.
The offense would pick up three more runs in the seventh inning, all off of the long bomb as well.
George Springer hit his 32nd home run of the year, a solo shot to left field and two batters later, Carlos Correa hit the third two-run homer of the game, dropping his hit right over the centerfield wall.
“That’s what they do, they hit, they play defense and they pitch, what can you ask for,” Verlander said of his new team.
Ken Giles would make things a little dicey in the ninth by loading the bases with one out, but he’d get out of the inning unscathed, making Verlander and the offenses job’s hold up, snagging a sweep and guaranteeing them a place in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
“I think we had a 100 percent chance that we we’re going to (clinch) with that guy on the mound,” Reddick said of Verlander’s start. “I mean he’s pretty special out there.”
Now since the addition of Verlander, the team is 11-5.
With the clinch comes the party and the celebration, but after an off day on Monday the team knows there is still much more work to be done.
“Right now we have to finish the season, we have 15 games left, the new goal will be try to win home field advantage,” Carlos Beltran said.
Only one game separates the Cleveland Indians and Astros.