OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Once they got behind closed doors in the clubhouse, the Houston Astros showered Justin Verlander with champagne.
No, it wasn’t for helping them avoid a sweep at the Coliseum. But that was a nice benefit, too.
Verlander pitched just well enough to earn his 200th career win and the Astros hit five home runs, beating the Oakland Athletics 9-4 Sunday to retake sole possession of the AL West lead.
“That was one of the tougher wins I had to get this season,” Verlander said. “Our boys swung the bats and that made for a great day.”
The surging A’s had won the first two games at the Coliseum to tie shaky Houston atop the division. But Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the third inning and Evan Gattis, Alex Bregman, Marwin Gonzalez and Martin Maldonado later homered for the defending World Series champions. Maldonado also tripled and doubled.
“What a great way to get Verlander his 200th,” Bregman said. “We hand the ball to JV and he wins. He got us going in the right direction. He battled his head off for us.”
Verlander (12-8), who has not given up more than four runs in any of his 20 career games against the A’s, entered the day with a major league-leading 1.74 ERA on the road. Matt Chapman and Khris Davis hit solo homers off Verlander in the first inning, and Davis added his 36th homer, a two-run drive, in the third that made it 4-all.
Gattis put the Astros ahead for good in the fourth with his 24th home run.
“I’m guessing this won’t be his last win,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Verlander. “You just look at his numbers. He’s something special.”
Verlander gave up four runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six but gave up three home runs and has allowed 25 this season. He became the 114th pitcher with at least 200 career wins.
“When you reach a milestone, you look back, understand and relish what you’ve done,” the 35-year-old Verlander said. “I look around from when I started and realized it’s a long journey. From age 21 to now, mentally, it’s been a process.”
Brad Peacock took over for Verlander in the sixth, with two runners on and one out. He struck out Stephen Piscotty on a full count, walked Marcus Semien and got Mark Canha swinging on a 2-2 pitch. Four Houston relievers shut down the A’s on one hit over 3 2/3 innings.
The Astros won for the second time in nine games. The Athletics had won 13 of their past 16 games to draw even with Houston.
After allowing six runs in three previous August starts combined, Sean Manaea (11-9) gave up six in four-plus innings against the Astros.
Astros: 2B Jose Altuve (right knee) began a rehab assignment Sunday for Triple-A Fresno at Tacoma, going 1 for 3 with a strikeout and hit by pitch. … C Brian McCann (right knee) went 0 for 3 and caught six innings on Saturday night for the Grizzlies.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (11-5, 2.71) starts for Houston at Seattle on Monday night.
Athletics: RHP Mike Fiers (8-6, 3.38) takes the mound against Texas Monday night.
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