Verlander, Astros down D-backs, but both teams seal playoff spots

PHOENIX -- The Houston Astros won. The Arizona Diamondbacks lost.

But everybody left Chase Field on Saturday night with a ticket to the postseason.

Justin Verlander threw five innings, Jose Abreu hit a run-scoring double and the Astros beat the Diamondbacks 1-0 as both teams clinched spots in the upcoming playoffs.

Houston gets a chance to defend its World Series title after fighting through a tight American League wild-card race for the past several weeks. The Astros still have plenty to play for Sunday -- they could clinch the AL West and a first-round bye with a win on Sunday and a Texas loss.

Manager Dusty Baker said there was a postgame toast after Saturday's win and some bright orange playoff T-shirts were passed out among players, coaches and staff. Other than that, it was hard to tell anything important had just happened.

"The celebration was a bit muted," Verlander said. "Keep your eye on the prize."

The Diamondbacks backed into the bracket, thanks to the Reds' 15-6 loss at St. Louis. Arizona's seeding could change depending on Sunday's results, which also could determine whether the Marlins have to fly back to New York on Monday to finish a suspended game with the Mets.

It's the first playoff appearance for Arizona since 2017. The D-backs went 52-110 in 2021.

They're just the third team in MLB history to go from a 110-plus loss season to a playoff berth in a three-season span, joining this year's Orioles and the 2013-15 Astros.

That helps explain why there was much more joy in the Arizona clubhouse despite Saturday's loss.

"We lost 110 games two years ago and we just punched a ticket to the postseason," manager Torey Lovullo said. "We are one of the top teams in the National League and that didn't happen by luck. It happened because we were a trustworthy group and ready to compete every single night."

Said first baseman Christian Walker: "I think a lot of the emotion you see is that a lot of these guys were here the last few years, and we feel like we really earned this. We pulled ourselves out of a (difficult) situation and turned ourselves into some winners.

"To be a part of this group, a contributor, a teammate, a leader, it is amazing."

Houston won on Saturday after multiple clutch moments in the final innings.

Hector Neris got a pair of crucial outs in the seventh. He entered with the bases loaded and one out but struck out Ketel Marte on three pitches and coaxed a weak groundout from Tommy Pham. Shortstop Jeremy Pena made a slick defensive play in the eighth, turning a double play on a tough hop on a hard-hit ball by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

The Astros got two more solid defensive plays in the ninth when catcher Martin Maldonado threw Jake McCarthy out on an attempted steal. Third baseman Alex Bregman got the second out after charging a slow roller and making a strong throw to first.

Bryan Abreu then walked Geraldo Perdomo and struck out Corbin Carroll. It was Bryan Abreu's fifth save of the season.

José Abreu brought home the game's lone run with a double off the center-field wall, making it 1-0 in the fourth. Abreu was also the offensive hero on Friday night after hitting a two-run double to nearly the same spot in 2-1 win.

"It's hard to win a game 1-0," Baker said. "A lot of things have to go your way and you have to play good baseball. I'm proud of these guys to this point. We've got one more game to win."

Verlander (13-8) helped the Astros to World Series wins in 2017 and 2022 but signed as a free agent with the New York Mets during the offseason. After a disappointing few months, the Mets traded the three-time Cy Young Award winner back to the Astros at the trade deadline.

He provided another good outing Saturday, giving up two hits and three walks while striking out five.

"Five innings is not what I consider a job well done," Verlander said. "I'd like to have gone deeper, but to hand over to the (bullpen) tonight and have them perform the way they do, Hector stepping up was absolutely huge, it makes it easier on us starters."

Arizona's Merrill Kelly (12-8) went seven innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out five.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.