#1: The Trade Deadline
For the second time in seven seasons, the Astros acquiring Justin Verlander at the trade deadline changed everything. After losing Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. to season ending surgeries, the Astros rotation was in shambles. Cristian Javier was regressing and Hunter Brown and J.P. France were blowing past their previous career high workloads as their performance waned.
In stepped Justin Verlander to save the day.
JV made 11 starts in his second stint as an Astro, finishing 7-3 with a 3.31 ERA. He was especially dominant in his last two starts, both must-win games. In 13 innings of work, Verlander struck out 13 and allowed only five hits and one run. If Houston loses even one of those games, they're out of October.
He may not ever win another Cy Young, but he was elite when it mattered, salvaging a rotation that desperately needed a workhorse and helping keep innings off of an already taxed bullpen.
And while Verlander was obviously a massive get, don't sleep on the acquisition of Kendall Graveman.
Graveman, also in his second stint with Houston, appeared in 23 games, posting a 2.42 ERA. His high walk rate is a little scary, and he may find himself an odd man out in October as Ryne Stanek did last year for the same reason, but he got the job done down the stretch and was huge in helping lessen the workload of a taxed bullpen.
Great work Dana Brown. Your showing at the trade deadline is the main reason the Astros are division champs for the sixth time in seven season.