Houston Astros' division clinch day brought champagne and Budweiser showers — and a sweet Justin Verlander and Kate Upton kiss.
Supermodel Kate Upton made her first appearance in Houston to watch her man Justin Verlander work on the day he clinched the division title.
The Houston Astros did a lap around the field after clinching the American League West. (Photo by Chris Baldwin.)
Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel quickly bonded.
Jose Altuve is a dominant MVP force for the Houston Astros.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane brings intensity and a relentless work ethic to the franchise. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan.)
Carlos Correa is hard on baseballs — and himself.
Justin Verlander gives the Houston Astros a surprise ace for the playoffs.
Charlise Castro & George Springer
The Astros' supersized expectations have Jeff Luhnow experiencing life differently.
Justin Verlander is the last Houston Astro to start on a lap around the field, slapping high fives with fans in the first row in one of the happiest conga lines ever. Verlander fittingly trails Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and all the rest of the young core that powers this team. But the Astros’ dropped-in ace has the sweetest finish waiting for him.
For when he completes his lap, Verlander finds his fiancee — supermodel Kate Upton — in the stands and kisses her with an enthusiasm that Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman would appreciate. Upton has moved down to the first row of the Diamond Club seats by this point, along with Verlander’s mom. In Astros owner Jim Crane’s box for much of the game, they knew they wanted to be closer when the Astros officially clinched the American League West division title.
Even when you’re as good a baseball player as Justin Verlander — and this is a pitcher who’s won a league MVP award — these type of celebrations are rare. It’s not every day that you win a division, certainly not on a Sept. 17 Sunday with weeks of the regular season left. It’s not every day that you get to drench the clubhouse and every one of your teammates in a champagne and Budweiser shower. It’s not every day that a city that went through so much losing with these once masterfully rebuilding Astros gets a chance to let loose and scream.
It’s not every day that self-described “sophisticated redneck” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick wears a red, white and blue American flag speedo for everyone to see. OK, that one may happen more frequently than you’d think.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch keeps reminding everyone that his team earned this party. And he’s right. Whatever happens in October (and the Astros will be underdogs to the Cleveland Indians in any playoff meeting), this is a September Sunday to relish. Sure, the Astros held control of this division for virtually the entire season — and the playoffs long stood as foregone conclusion.
But it still means plenty to clinch.
Anyone with any doubts about that only needs to look to see how Verlander reacts to the moment. The 34-year-old with more hardware than Ace, runs around like the biggest little kid in the world, wonder coming through in his monster smile. And then, he makes sure he gets that kiss.
And a hug from mom too.
Crane will later say that the clinching win and celebration brought a tear to his eye.
Justin + Kate — and the Life of a True Ace
This is Verlander’s first home start since the last-minute trade that brought the Astros the Midnight Ace. It is also Kate Upton’s first public appearance in her future husband’s new city. Verlander ends up steadying an Astros offense that seems to be feeling clinch day pressure early. He strikes out 10 Seattle Mariners in seven innings, gives up only a solo home run.
Not bad for new beginnings.
By the time the Astros hitters get going and knocking balls off the new green center field grass wall and into the Crawford Boxes, Houston’s easing to a 7-1 clinch day win. Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, Springer and Correa (for the first time since his return from the disabled list) all hit home runs.
It’s a feel-good day to be an Astros fan, especially if you’re lucky enough to be watching the game with your son, or your dad, or your sister, or your diehard Astros buddy. The only surprise from being there is how many fans still leave early with the Astros comfortably ahead.
They know it is clinch day right? They know a party is coming?
The ones who stay get plenty of moments. There is Jose Altuve — strangely rested by Hinch on clinch day — racing out from the dugout to do his customary flying bump with Correa and Gonzalez. There is Dallas Keuchel screaming like a happy mad man. There are those division champ shirts and hats being handed out to the Astros on the field. There is Verlander getting his kiss.
Afterwards, the new ace talks about trying to win a championship for a flood-devastated city that can use some sweet moments. “To win a World Series in this city right now… ” Verlander says.
Now that would be worth one epic kiss.