baseball notebook

Justin Verlander wins 20th, Astros capture AL West

George Springer, who hit three homers Sunday, was part of the on-field celebration after the Astros clinched the AL West title.
George Springer, who hit three homers Sunday, was part of the on-field celebration after the Astros clinched the AL West title.Eric Christian Smith/Assoicated press/FR171023 AP via AP

George Springer hit three homers, Justin Verlander won his MLB-leading 20th game, and the host Houston Astros clinched their third straight AL West title Sunday in grand fashion, routing the Los Angeles Angels, 13-5.

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 Yankees for the best record in the majors.

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. The 36-year-old righthander struck out five to leave him six strikeouts shy of becoming the 18th pitcher in MLB history to reach 3,000.

Wild stuff in Milwaukee

Eric Thames hit two home runs, the Brewers took a combined perfect game into the seventh inning, and host Milwaukee beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, to catch 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.

The Nationals lost, 5-3, to Miami earlier Sunday, locking them into a tie with the Brewers for the top wild-card spot. Milwaukee owns the tiebreaker over Washington after winning their season series and would host the wild-card game if they finish the season with the same record.

Milwaukee has won eight of nine and extended its September record to a major-league best 17-4. The Brewers are 10-2 since losing NL MVP Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap.


Cruz trots out the long ball

Twins slugger Nelson Cruz hit his 400th career home run, becoming the 57th player in major league history to reach the mark.

Cruz, 39, connected in the fourth inning of the Twins’ 12-8 win over the Royals for his 40th homer of the season. He became the third player in Twins history to hit 40 home runs in a season, joining Harmon Killebrew and Brian Dozier .

Bryant hurt; Cardinals in playoffs

Kris Bryant left the Cubs’ game to visiting St. Louis after he sprained his right ankle trying to beat out a double play.

Bryant stepped hard on first and tumbled to the ground in the third inning. The 2016 NL MVP then had to be helped off the field.

The team says X-rays taken at the ballpark were negative. The Cardinals won, 3-2, for their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field since 1921, securing a playoff spot in the process.

Elbow woes for Freeman

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is remaining in Atlanta for treatment on his sore right elbow instead of joining the team for its next series at Kansas City. Freeman, a MVP candidate for the NL East champions, left Sunday’s 4-1 home loss to the Giants in the eighth inning after a recurrence of a bone spur in the elbow. Manager Brian Snitker said the first baseman would've been in the lineup if Atlanta’s NL division series began Monday. Instead, off days Monday and Thursday, sandwiched around the two-game series against the Royals, give Freeman four days to have treatment on the elbow . . . Rookie Oscar Mercado hit a three-run homer and Yaisel Puig added a three-run double as the host Indians beat the Phillies, 10-1, and moved into a tie with the Rays (92-64) for the second AL wild-card spot. Before their final home game of the season, the Indians received good news as third baseman José Ramírez is expected to return Tuesday after missing a month with a broken right hand . . . Israel qualified for the Olympic baseball tournament for the first time, with former major leaguer Danny Valencia hitting a three-run homer in an 11-1, eight-inning rout of South Africa at Parma, Italy. Israel earned the Europe/Africa berth and joined host Japan in the six-nation Olympic event, to be played from July 29 to Aug. 8 at Fukushima and Yokohama, Japan, as part of the Tokyo Games. Valencia, 35, was released by Baltimore after the 2018 season. The nine-year big league veteran, who was born in Miami, obtained Israeli citizenship this year. He homered off Derek Baylis in a four-run eighth inning. Baseball is returning to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016. Cuba won the gold medal in 1992, 1996, and 2004, the United States in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.