Verlander Gets 200th Win as Astros Reclaim Sole Possession of First

It was not the best of outings nor the prettiest for Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander, but it was good enough. Verlander recorded his 200th win as a starting pitcher on Sunday, becoming the 114th player in Major League Baseball history to do so and joining Rangers' starter Bartolo Colon and Yankees' starter CC Sabathia as the only active pitchers to reach the mark. Facing a hot Oakland Athletics team that has stormed its way to the second wild card spot and into the American League West race, Verlander struggled at times and needed the Astros offense to help him out in this one.

Right from the start, the Astros found themselves in a 2-0 hole as Verlander gave up solo home runs to Matt Chapman and Khris Davis in the first inning. However, Houston would respond in the third inning when an Alex Bregman single with runners on the corners and two men out cut the lead in half to 2-1. The next batter at the plate, Yuli Gurriel, took a first-pitch changeup from Athletics' starter Sean Manaea into the stands for a three-run home run to give the Astros a 4-2 advantage.

But Oakland wasted no time getting themselves back into the game against Verlander. After the right-hander gave up a leadoff single to Nick Martini, he walked Matt Chapman to put two runners on with nobody out. Luckily for Verlander, he would get Jed Lowrie to ground into a double play which left a runner at third base with two men down. But the hard-hitting Khris Davis came to the plate and took Verlander deep for a second time to draw the score even at four apiece after three innings.

Luckily for Verlander, the Astros offense continued to hit Sean Manaea. A solo home run by Evan Gattis in the fourth inning and an RBI single by George Springer effectively knocked Manaea out of the game with the Astros leading 6-4 in the fifth. On the other end, Verlander worked a 1-2-3 inning in both the fourth and fifth before things got a little rocky in the sixth, putting the 200th win in limbo. With one out, Verlander allowed back-to-back singles to Khris Davis and Matt Olson to put runners on the corners which ended his outing. He had gone 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, striking out six, and walking just one batter. Looking to get Houston out of the jam was Brad Peacock, the Athletics did not make it easy on him as they loaded the bases with two outs and Mark Canha at the dish. Peacock was able to retire Canha via the strikeout and the hope of a 200th win was still alive and well for Justin Verlander.

Houston was determined to help ensure Verlander got his milestone victory as solo home runs by Martin Maldonado and Alex Bregman in the seventh, followed by a Marwin Gonzalez shot in the eighth helped put the Astros up by a score of 9-4. The Houston bullpen held strong the rest of the way and thanks to five unanswered runs by the Astros offense, Justin Verlander earned his 200th win. With the win, the Astros reclaimed sole possession of first place over the Athletics who took the first two games of the series to draw even in the division race. After trailing by eight games at the All-Star Break, the Oakland Athletics have positioned themselves in a heated battle for the AL West with the Astros as the final month of the regular season approaches. But Sunday was Verlander's day and although it was not a dominant outing like one of the many we have seen from the right-hander this year, it was just enough to earn a well-deserved milestone. Congratulations, Justin Verlander!

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