Verlander has historic night as Astros lock up best overall record

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 6-3 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After securing the best American League regular-season record with the victory on Friday night to guarantee home-field advantage through the ALCS, the Astros had the chance to lock in the best record of the entire league with another win over the Angles in Los Angeles on Saturday.

It was also Justin Verlander's last start in the regular season, his final chance to add to his potential Cy Young Numbers. Here is a quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 6, Angels 3.

Record: 106-55, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Bard (3-3, 4.78 ERA).

1) Verlander reaches 3,000 strikeouts on his career and 300 in 2019

Justin Verlander went into Saturday's game closing in on two milestones, one a career-long and the other for the 2019 season. The former he reached in the bottom of the fourth, getting his sixth strikeout of the night which brought him to the elusive mark of 3,000 in his career.

With the strikeouts then coming in bunches, Verlander had a chance at the twelve K's needed to join teammate Gerrit Cole with 300 on the year. In the bottom of the sixth, he would get that strikeout, finishing his regular-season performance by reaching that achievement.

Along the way in the start, he did allow three runs on a solo home run in the first and two-run homer in the fourth, ultimately increasing his ERA to 2.58, but that would be a small blemish on an otherwise historic night. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, 2 HR.

2) Altuve and Reddick lift the offense ahead

Early in the game, it did not look like Houston's bats were going to be able to figure out Jose Suarez and be able to bail out Justin Verlander who had allowed the early runs. That changed in the top of the sixth when a leadoff walk set up Jose Altuve for a two-run home run to trim the Angels' lead to 3-2.

Later in that inning, Houston had two more runners on base after a walk and hit-by-pitch, and Josh Reddick took advantage with the second homer of the inning, this one a go-ahead blast to make it a 5-3 Houston lead. Jose Altuve knocked in another run in the top of the seventh, getting an RBI-single to extend the lead to 6-3.

3) Houston's relievers throw three scoreless innings

With Verlander's night done after six innings, Hector Rondon took over on the mound for the bottom of the seventh and worked around a one-out hit batter and walk to keep the Angels scoreless in the inning. Ryan Pressly continued to look sharp, throwing a nine-pitch bottom of the eighth.

Jake Marisnick led off the top of the ninth with a triple, but three straight outs would leave him stranded and Houston's lead still three runs. That gave Roberto Osuna another save opportunity for the year, and he would keep Los Angeles scoreless in the bottom of the ninth. The win locked up the best overall record in the MLB for the Astros, giving them home-field advantage should they reach the World Series.

Up Next: The 162nd and final game of the 2019 regular season for the Astros will be Sunday in Los Angeles against the Angles at 2:07 PM. Gerrit Cole (19-5, 2.52 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston to make his final bid to pass up Justin Verlander for the Cy Young as well as try to get to win number 20, while Dillon Peters (4-3, 4.72 ERA) will oppose him for the Angels.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome