Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander picked up his milestone 200th career win against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, striking out six in 5.1 innings of work in a 9-4 victory.
The victory also propelled the Astros back to first place in the AL West, moving a game up on the surging Athletics. Verlander allowed seven hits and four runs in the contest, but the Astros brought out the bats and did more than enough to help their ace pick up yet another milestone.
Verlander is 35 years of age but has shown zero signs of slowing down, and yet spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame is already a given. With the 2011 AL MVP, Cy Young, seven All-Star Game appearances and 2017 World Series ring in his trophy room, Verlander has asserted himself as one of the all-time greats on the mound.
With the victory, Verlander moves to 12-8 on the season with a 2.65 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 169.2 innings pitched. At this point, he probably is the front-runner to win the AL Cy Young, given the injuries to other candidates in Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox), and Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians).
It's been a wonderful calendar year for Verlander. He tied the knot with Kate Upton last winter, and she's currently pregnant with their first child. The 200th career win is just a cherry on top of what's been a great 12 months for Verlander.
The Astros are in excellent position to embark on another deep postseason run. Though the Boston Red Sox are running away with the best record in baseball, Houston has the more recent playoff success, winning experience and the much-better pitching staff. They are arguably the team to beat in the AL right now.
If Verlander continues to perform at this rate, the Astros could become the first team since the 2000 New York Yankees to successfully defend their championship. Given his recent level of success, nobody should be doubting Verlander come playoff time.