HOUSTON – George Springer hit a career-high three homers, Justin Verlander posted his MLB-leading 20th win and the Houston Astros clinched their third straight AL West title in grand fashion, routing the Los Angeles Angels 13-5 on Sunday.
A crowd at Minute Maid Park that was cheering from Verlander’s first pitch got even louder as Springer homered three times in the first four innings. The Astros kept breaking away and improved to 102-54, a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees for the best record in the majors.
After the final out, the Astros held a bouncing group hug in the middle of the diamond and posed for a team picture. It hasn’t been determined who they will face in the playoffs as they try for their second World Series championship in three years.
Springer, the MVP of the 2017 World Series, had two chances to tie the big league record for home runs in a game. He popped up with the bases loaded in the fifth and grounded out in the seventh.
Verlander (20-6) yielded six hits and two runs in five innings to reach 20 wins for the second time in his career and the first since winning the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011 when he went 24-5 for Detroit. This year’s AL Cy Young front-runner struck out five to leave him six strikeouts shy of becoming the 18th pitcher in MLB history to reach 3,000.
Jose Rodriguez (0-1) allowed three runs in two innings.
Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
CHICAGO – Paul Goldschmidt hit a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning and St. Louis clinched a playoff spot by rallying past Chicago for its first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field in almost a century.
NL Central-leading St. Louis qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2015 and stayed three games ahead of Milwaukee. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Cardinals, who came back for a 9-8 victory Saturday on consecutive homers by Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
The time, Chicago manager Joe Maddon sent a dominant Yu Darvish (6-8) back to the mound for the ninth to go for his first complete game since 2014. But the result was the same in the Cubs’ fifth consecutive one-run loss.
Miles Mikolas pitched 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball and Tyler Webb (2-1) got the last out of the eighth for the win. Andrew Miller worked the ninth for his sixth save.
Brewers 4, Pirates 3
MILWAUKEE – Eric Thames hit two home runs and Milwaukee took a combined perfect game into the seventh inning to beat Pittsburgh and match Washington atop the NL wild-card standings.
Orlando Arcia connected for the Brewers, but the shortstop also let a line drive tip off his glove with one out in the seventh for a hit that ended the perfect game bid in Milwaukee’s regular season home finale.
Milwaukee has won eight of nine. Trevor Williams (7-8) took the loss for the Pirates, who lost their ninth straight.
Gio Gonzalez (3-2) picked up the win. Josh Hader got four outs for his 35th save in 41 tries.
Marlins 5, Nationals 3
MIAMI – Three relievers each gave up an extra-base hit in a seventh-inning meltdown, and Washington’s streak of 11 consecutive wins against Miami ended in a loss that dropped the Nationals into a tie with Milwaukee for the top NL wild card.
Hunter Strickland and Wander Suero (6-9) allowed two runs apiece in the seventh, and Tanner Rainey gave up an RBI triple by Starlin Castro as the Marlins rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a 5-3 lead.
The bullpen collapse came against the Nationals’ favorite foils. Miami averted a three-game sweep and finished 4-15 against Washington this year.
Jeff Brigham, helped when left fielder Harold Ramirez robbed Adam Eaton of a hit, pitched a perfect ninth for his first career save. Jarlin Garcia (4-2) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
Dodgers 7, Rockies 4
LOS ANGELES – Hyun-Jin Ryu hit a home run and pitched seven solid innings, Cody Bellinger hit a grand slam and Los Angeles reached the 100-win mark.
With the Dodgers still undecided on a starter for the NL Division Series opener Oct. 3, Ryu (13-5) made his case by giving up three runs and six hits over seven innings with no walks and eight strikeouts. His first career home run was a bonus.
The Dodgers reduced their magic number for clinching the best record in the NL to one.
Los Angeles joined Houston and the New York Yankees to give the major leagues three 100-game winners for the third straight season. Before 2017, the only years with three 100-win teams were 1942, 1977, 1998, 2002 and 2003.
Sam Hilliard hit a two-run home run in the seventh, his sixth, for the last-place Rockies. Antonio Senzatela (10-11) took the loss.
Indians 10, Phillies 1
CLEVELAND – Rookie Oscar Mercado hit a three-run homer, Yasiel Puig drove a three-run double and Cleveland moved into a tie for the second AL wild card.
Carlos Carrasco (6-7) pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for his longest relief appearance since his midseason cancer diagnosis, and the Indians matched the Tampa Bay Rays with six games to play. Both teams are 92-64 and two games behind Oakland, which leads the wild-card race.
Mercado’s 14th home run off Vince Velasquez (7-8) broke a 1-all tie in the fifth. The Indians put the game away with a six-run seventh, which included Puig’s double and a two-run homer by Franmil Reyes.
Yankees 8, Blue Jays 3
NEW YORK – Luis Severino (1-0) struck out nine over five scoreless innings for his first win of the season, and New York hit three home runs as it beat Toronto in its regular season home finale.
New York (102-55) moved 47 games over .500 for the first time since its record-setting 114-victory season in 1998. The AL East champions clinched home-field advantage in the AL Division Series starting Oct. 4 and are competing with Houston for the top record in the AL.
Aaron Judge hit his 26th homer this season and 14th in his last 29 games. Brett Gardner added a three-run drive and DJ LeMahieu made it 6-0 with a two-run homer in the second.
Toronto opener Wilmer Font (2-3) gave up four runs in the first and was followed by Trent Thornton.
Twins 12, Royals 8
MINNEAPOLIS – Nelson Cruz hit his 400th career home run, Miguel Sano connected twice and Minnesota powered past Kansas City to remain four games ahead of Cleveland for the AL Central lead.
Kansas City joined Baltimore, Detroit and Miami with 100 losses, only the second time in major league history there have been four 100-loss teams in one season.
Sano homered in the first and third innings. Sano hit a three-run drive during the big first inning against starter Jorge Lopez (4-9), who lasted just 2 1/3 innings. Zack Littell (6-0) earned the win in relief.
Rangers 8, Athletics 3
OAKLAND, Calif. – Willie Calhoun hit two of Texas’ five homers and the Rangers slowed Oakland’s wild-card push.
The A’s had won 10 of 11 but couldn’t stretch their two-game lead over Tampa Bay for the top AL wild card.
Texas ended a seven-game skid. Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara all went deep. Rangers starter Lance Lynn (15-11) matched his career high with 12 strikeouts to end a five-game losing streak.
Jurickson Profar had three hits and an RBI for the A’s. Marcus Semien doubled twice.
Oakland starter Tanner Roark (10-9) saw his three-game winning streak halted. He allowed five runs and six hits in three innings.
Red Sox 7, Rays 4
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Nathan Eovaldi (2-0) pitched six gritty innings, Christian Vazquez hit a three-run homer and Boston beat playoff-contending Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay dropped into a tie with Cleveland for the second AL wild card, and both teams trail Oakland by two games for the top spot.
Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez drove in two runs and is one RBI away from his third consecutive and fourth overall season of at least 35 homers and 100 RBIs. Martinez had an RBI single and Vazquez hit his homer off Ryan Yarbrough (11-5) as Boston went up 4-0 in the first.
Rays two-way player Brendan McKay got his first major league homer.
Giants 4, Braves 1
ATLANTA – Rookie Logan Webb allowed only two hits and one run in six innings, Evan Longoria drove in two runs with two hits and San Francisco beat Dallas Keuchel (8-7) and Atlanta.
Braves manager Brian Snitker, preparing the NL East champions for the playoffs, rested outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., third baseman Josh Donaldson and second baseman Ozzie Albies. Albies had his second straight day off before reaching on a pinch-hit single in the ninth.
Webb (2-2) was sharp in his seventh start, preventing the Braves from a three-game sweep in their final regular-season game at SunTrust Park. Relievers Tyler Rogers and Will Smith closed out the combined five-hitter. Smith pitched the ninth for his 34th save.
Padres 6, Diamondbacks 4, 10 Innings
SAN DIEGO – Rookie Seth Mejias-Brean hit a two-run homer with no outs in the 10th inning and San Diego beat Arizona to give interim manager Rod Barajas his first win since taking over for the fired Andy Green.
Mejias-Brean homered off Yoan Lopez (2-7) on a 1-1 pitch for his second overall and his first walkoff homer. Greg Garcia was aboard on a leadoff double.
San Diego’s Matt Strahm (6-10) pitched a perfect 10th for the win.
Mets 6, Reds 3
CINCINNATI – Michael Conforto homered to cap a four-run first inning and New York gave its faint playoff hopes a boost. J.D. Davis and Brandon Nimmo also connected for the Mets, who remained 4 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the second NL wild card.
New York starter Marcus Stroman walked the bases loaded with two outs and a 4-2 lead in the fifth. Brad Brach (5-4) came on to get Eugenio Suarez to pop up on the first pitch.
Trevor Bauer (11-13), in his 10th start since being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, didn’t walk anybody, but he hit two batters in seven innings. He gave up six hits and five runs with eight strikeouts.
Tigers 6, White Sox 3
DETROIT – Willi Castro hit his first major league homer, one of four connections by Detroit in a win over Chicago. Jeimer Candelario, Gordon Beckham and Victor Reyes also went deep.
Detroit’s Matthew Boyd (9-11), who missed his last start after the death of his grandfather, gave up three runs, eight hits and two walks in five innings. Joe Jimenez pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
The White Sox got homers from Eloy Jimenez and Wellington Castillo but lost for the 17th time in 25 games. White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez (9-15) allowed five runs.
Orioles 2, Mariners 1
BALTIMORE – Chris Davis homered off Marco Gonzales (16-12) in the seventh inning to carry Baltimore past Seattle.
Orioles left-hander John Means (11-11) allowed one run and seven hits over seven sharp innings in the penultimate start of an All-Star rookie season. He walked one and struck out four, including Domingo Santana with his final pitch.
Richard Bleier finished for his fourth save in a game that took only 2 hours, 11 minutes.
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