HOUSTON (AP) – Justin Verlander is approaching some important personal milestones.
Houston’s ace is far more concerned with the goals his team is on the cusp of achieving.
Verlander picked up his major league-leading 19th win and Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez all homered to help the Astros to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
The Astros are a win away from their third straight 100-win season and have a magic number of one to clinch a playoff berth and three to capture their third straight American League West title.
“I think there’s two ways to think about it: Either we came in and expected to win it or you appreciate the moment,” Verlander said. “I think this team, I think we appreciate the moment … obviously nothing is done yet but I think we’ve done an incredible job of just going out and continuing to play Astros baseball and win and not look in the rearview mirror, stay on the gas.”
Verlander (19-6) added to his case for the AL Cy Young Award by striking out eight and scattering four singles over six scoreless innings. He lowered his AL-leading ERA to 2.50 and his 283 strikeouts this season leave him 11 shy of becoming the 18th player in MLB history to reach 3,000.
He’s one win away from reaching 20 for the second time in his career and the first time since winning a career-high 24 games in 2011 when he was voted AL MVP and Cy Young winner.
Manager AJ Hinch was asked to describe Verlander’s season.
“We need an hour of conversation to talk about his season,” Hinch said. “He’s so super focused on the days that he pitches. He executes his game plan and it’s a sight to see.”
Roberto Osuna struck out two in the ninth for his 34th save.
Texas starter Lance Lynn (14-11) was tough early and the Astros had just one hit before Gurriel’s home run to the first row of the seats in right field with one out in the fifth.
There were two outs in the sixth when Bregman launched his homer onto the train tracks atop left field to give him 37 this season. It’s the most home runs by an Astro since Chris Carter also had 37 in 2014.
Bregman wasn’t interested in talking about the season he’s put together so far.
“I just show up and try to help the team win games,” he said. “I think the reason all of us play the game of baseball is to win, and that’s what drives all of us, and that’s the most important thing.”
Houston went back-to-back when Alvarez extended his rookie franchise record with his 26th homer on a ball hit to straightaway center field to make it 3-0.
“Lance did a great job, like he always does,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “But that lineup over there, if you make one mistake they make you pay.”
Nomar Mazara had two hits, including a solo home run off Hector Rondon in the seventh inning as the Rangers dropped their fourth game overall and the sixth straight to the Astros.
Lynn yielded seven hits and four runs with eight strikeouts in seven innings. He is 0-5 in his last eight starts behind an offense that hasn’t provided much run support. The Rangers haven’t scored more than three runs in one of his starts since his last win on Aug. 2.
Jose Altuve singled with one out in the first inning before Lynn settled in, retiring the next 12 batters, with six strikeouts before Gurriel’s homer.
Houston shortstop Carlos Correa went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his return after sitting out since Aug. 19 with a sore lower back.
The Astros tacked on a run in the seventh inning when Robinson Chirinos tripled and scored on a single by George Springer.
Rangers: OF Joey Gallo (wrist surgery) is working out and playing in games at the Rangers instructional league in Arizona and could come off the injured list by the end of the week.
Astros: Correa was only able to get one rehabilitation game in at Triple-A Round Rock before the team’s season ended, so the Astros will ease him back into playing every day. Hinch said he’ll be off on Wednesday to give him two days off coupled with an off day on Thursday and that he’ll likely only play two of three games this weekend against the Angels. … RHP Brad Peacock (sore shoulder) threw a bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Thursday as he moves closer to coming off the injured list.
Osuna, who is 24, reached 150 saves on Tuesday to make him the youngest pitcher in MLB history to reach the mark, passing Craig Kimbrel, who did it at 25. Osuna’s 34 saves are tied for second-most in the AL and eighth in a season in franchise history.
Rangers: LHP Kolby Allard (4-0, 4.34) will start for Texas on Wednesday night. The rookie allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings in his last start but did not factor in the decision in a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (17-5, 2.62), who leads the majors with 292 strikeouts, is scheduled to start for Houston on Wednesday. Cole allowed four hits and one run while striking out 11 as he pitched a season-high eight innings for the second straight start in a 4-1 win over Kansas City the last time out.
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