Now that Labor Day has come and gone, the Major League schedule has reached its final stretch. This month or so is all about the postseason: getting there or prepping for it, depending on the team.
For a team such as the Astros, every move is made with an eye toward October. That's why Tuesday is so important for Houston. Even though the Astros have had the American League West locked up for months, the game against the Mariners from Safeco Field on Tuesday qualifies as a must-watch game. Tune in at 10:10 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.
Why is it a must watch? Because newly acquired star hurler Justin Verlander makes his debut in orange and white. The Astros acquired Verlander last week from Detroit: a late-August blockbuster for a frontline starter. So momentous was the move that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow called it one of the largest transactions in club history.
Verlander, who had a no-trade clause, had to approve the deal to be sent from Detroit, where he'd spent his entire professional career. He blossomed into one of the best pitchers of his generation during 13 seasons with the Tigers, going 183-114 with a 3.49 ERA, 2,373 strikeouts in 2,511 innings for 8.5 K's per nine innings. He also won every major award possible during his tenure.
"Obviously, this was a pretty emotional decision for me, being in one place for so long," Verlander said. "It really felt like family there. I'm excited for my new family. I [had] to pitch against this team. I know how good these guys are. The opportunity to come play for a championship-caliber team for not only this year but for the remainder of my contract is ultimately what it really came down to."
The Mariners will counter with left-hander Ariel Miranda (8-6, 4.85 ERA). In his last outing, he gave up four homers in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles.
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Here's what else to watch for tonight (all times ET):
Richards returns LAA@OAK, 10:05 p.m. Garrett Richards' return to the Angels rotation has been a long time coming, ever since he left his first start of the season (April 5) with a right biceps injury. That start was supposed to mark his return from stem cell therapy to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right elbow in 2016, in which he made just six starts.
But his biceps ailment lingered, and Richards wound up missing another five months. He will be limited to 50 pitches, but the Angels are hoping that's enough to see flashes of the righty who headed their staff from 2014-15.
"I'm just going to try to go out there and throw quality strikes and get ahead of guys, and, hopefully, eat up as many innings as I can," Richards said.
The Angels are smack in the middle of the AL Wild Card race despite missing Richards and two other prominent starters for much of the season. Now all those arms are back, after the team returned Tyler Skaggs (right oblique strain) and Andrew Heaney (Tommy John surgery) to the rotation in the last month. Richards adds strength to a team that is definitely going for it with a month left in the season.
Kendall Graveman (4-4, 4.54) will take the mound for Oakland. He returned to the hill in August after a right shoulder strain sustained early in the season. In six August starts, Graveman went 2-2 with a 5.57 ERA, striking out 24 in 32 1/3 innings.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.