OAKLAND -- The 200th win of Justin Verlander's tremendous resume certainly won't go down as one of his best performances of his career, or even the season. Verlander overcame three Oakland homers and became tough as nails once the Astros took the lead for the second time in the fourth
OAKLAND -- The 200th win of Justin Verlander's tremendous resume certainly won't go down as one of his best performances of his career, or even the season. Verlander overcame three Oakland homers and became tough as nails once the Astros took the lead for the second time in the fourth inning.
Even then, Verlander couldn't breathe easily until reliever Brad Peacock stranded the bases loaded in the sixth inning, striking out Mark Canha to preserve a two-run lead and help the Astros secure a much-needed 9-4 win over the A's on Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.
"A win's a win," said Verlander, who improved to 16-6 all-time against Oakland in the regular season and playoffs. "This is one of the tougher ones I've had to get this year, specifically. … These guys are a great ballclub and it was a hard-fought battle today. Our boys swung the bat and we came out on top -- an all-around great day."
Verlander (12-8) is the 114th pitcher in Major League history to reach 200 wins, joining Bartolo Colon and (247) and Carsten Sabathia (244) as the only active pitchers to reach the milestone. After the game, teammate Gerrit Cole gave a speech in the clubhouse recapping his career, and Verlander's teammates sprayed him with champagne.
"We don't know the way the game's changing where 200 wins historically stands anymore," Verlander said. "I think everybody understands it's a little more special than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, but still, it's something I've taken a lot of pride in, which is just pitching, even through injuries, or whatever. Just being out there for my team -- Detroit, Houston -- it's a special moment for me. I don't even know how to put it into words. I've been through a lot, and for these guys to have them celebrate with me that way, it's pretty cool."
The Astros won for just the second time in nine games and moved back into sole possession of first place in the American League West over the A's, who fell one game back. The Mariners are 4 1/2 games behind Houston and will host the Astros beginning Monday.
"It's a good race," Verlander said. "These guys are no fluke whatsoever. We have the toughest division in baseball, without a doubt. The three teams are going to fight and claw all the way to the finish."
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who hit one of Houston's season-high-tying five homers, said it "was very important" for the team to get back on track after losing the first two games of the series.
"We had a battle mentality and that's us," Bregman said. "That's what we do. We pass the torch to the next guy. It was very different on defense, at the dish and a really good step forward. We build off today and take the momentum from today into Seattle."
Yuli Gurriel's three-run homer in the third gave the Astros a 4-2 lead against Sean Manaea (11-9) after Verlander gave up solo homers to Matt Chapman and Khris Davis in the first. Davis hit a two-run homer in the third to tie the game.
Verlander sent down the next eight batters as the Astros took the lead on an Evan Gattis homer in the fourth and went ahead 6-4 in the fifth when Martin Maldonado tripled and scored. Maldonado and Bregman homered in the seventh for an 8-4 lead, leaving Maldonado a single shy of the cycle.
"I just loved everything about how we approached the game today -- preparation to getting into the game after being punched in the face a little bit with their two homers in the first," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We answered with a counter-punch and kept coming at them. … A complete game for us, which we needed at this time."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Verlander was lifted from the game after giving up consecutive one-out singles in the sixth, putting runners at first and third with one out. Peacock was brought into the game to face Stephen Piscotty, who represented the go-ahead run, and struck him out. After walking Marcus Semien to load the bases, Peacock struck out Canha to end the inning and preserve the 6-4 lead.
"It was just trying to do my job," Peacock said. "I had a rough one [Saturday] and was trying to find the slider. Happily, I did. For [Verlander] to get his 200th win, it's really impressive. It's only a career I can dream about. I'm so happy for him."
Maldonado is the first catcher in Astros history to record a double, triple and homer in the same game, and he's the first player in club history to have a double, triple and homer from the ninth spot in the batting order.
HE SAID IT
"I asked the third-base coach if he had any oxygen for me." -- Maldonado, on his fifth-inning triple
Cole (11-5, 2.71 ERA) gets the start for the Astros in their series opener at 9:10 p.m. CT on Monday in Seattle against the Mariners. Cole's 219 strikeouts are tied with Chris Sale for second-most in the AL, behind teammate Justin Verlander. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-11, 5.62 ERA) will start for Seattle.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.