By Bill Brown

Justin Verlander became the 114th pitcher in history to win his 200th game in the Major Leagues when he beat Oakland, 9-4 at the Oakland Coliseum. Verlander ran his career record to 200-122 with the win, which lifted the Astros into sole possession of first place in the American League West. Oakland had won the first two games of the weekend series to move into a share of the division lead, cutting 12 games off the Astros’ lead over them and coming from fourth place to draw even with the defending champions.

Verlander survived three home runs in the game, giving him a career mark of 12-6 against Oakland. Verlander joined a group of 19 pitchers who reached 200 wins in 412 games of fewer. He is 35 years old. He ranks 24th on the all-time strikeout list. “A win’s a win,” said Verlander. “This is one of the tougher ones I’ve had to get this year, specifically…These guys are a great ballclub and it was a hard-fought battle today. Our boys swung the bat and we came out on top – an all-around great day.” Verlander has come away from nine of his 27 starts with quality starts (at least six innings, three earned runs allowed or fewer) with no wins – 6 no decisions and three losses. Verlander’s 2.65 earned run average ranks fourth in the American League. He leads the league in strikeouts with 223 in 169 2/3 innings.

Oakland went 38-13 since June 19 to catch Houston. Before the weekend series, the Astros slumped offensively during a 9-12 stretch, during which they hit only .224 as a team. Jose Altuve is on track to rejoin the team in Seattle for the next series after missing three weeks with a knee injury. The Astros had six players, five of them All-Stars, on the disabled list at one time. Since then, they have regained the services of shortstop Carlos Correa and centerfielder George Springer. Catcher Brian McCann is with Fresno on a rehab assignment after knee surgery and should be able to rejoin the team by September 1 at the latest. Reliever Chris Devenski is a few days away from returning if he stays healthy after a leg injury.