HOUSTON -- The energy level should be electric and the excitement off the charts at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, when Justin Verlander makes his Astros home debut after picking up wins in his first two starts for Houston on the road.
Not only is it Verlander's first home start since the Astros acquired him right before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, but Houston is in position to clinch its first American League West title. Saturday's win against Seattle moved the Astros' magic number to one, and they would have secured the division crown had the Angels lost to the Rangers on Saturday night. But because the Angels won, the Astros now control their own destiny: If they beat the Mariners again on Sunday, they will clinch their first division title since winning the NL Central in 2001.
And the fact that Verlander will take the hill at Minute Maid Park for the first time as a member of the Astros only adds to the excitement.
"I know there is a lot of anticipation for his first home start," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Being here, home crowd, I know there was a great buzz. When he got here, there was so much emotion in this city to begin with. We had the hurricane, we had the return [with] the doubleheader.
"When he arrived and [he was shown on the big] screen, everybody went crazy. It was great appreciation for the organization having gone out and gotten a bona fide ace. A real energy boost into this community, a very notable player in the big leagues. So when they get to see him for the first time in a home uniform and playing for the home city, I'm sure there will be a nice reception."
Verlander is coming off a win over the Angels in which he gave up one hit in eight scoreless innings.
Opposing Verlander will be Andrew Moore, who is moving back into the rotation in place of the struggling Ariel Miranda. Moore is 1-3 with a 5.36 ERA in nine games (seven starts) this season, but he has allowed just four hits and three runs in 12 innings in two September appearances since being called up to the Major League roster for the regular season's final month.
"It's definitely nice to get in the rotation," Moore said. "It's a fun time. We're right in the heat of it, and especially playing Houston, that's a really good team and a fun environment. So I'm definitely looking forward to another opportunity."
With a win, the Astros will clinch the seventh division title in team history, and their first since they won four in a five-year stretch in the NL Central from 1997-2001.They also won the NL West in 1980 and 1986. When the Astros won the NL pennant in 2005, they did so as a Wild Card. The Astros are also hoping to win their division for the first time since moving to the American League in 2013, though they did win the Wild Card Game against the Yankees in 2015 before losing to the Royals in the ALDS.
Beyond a division crown, the Astros are still battling the Indians for home-field advantage through the AL playoffs, and currently trail the Indians -- who clinched the AL Central on Saturday -- by 1 1/2 games.
Three things to know about this game
• Saturday's win gave the Astros 90 for the season; they have reached that plateau for the seventh time and the first since they finished 92-70 in 2004. The organization began play in 1962 as the Colt .45s.
• Seattle catcher Mike Zunino will be back behind the plate on Sunday after coming in off the bench in the eighth inning on Saturday. He's hit .391 with five home runs, 11 RBIs and a .473 on-base percentage over his last 19 games.
• Moore made a spot start against the Astros on Sept. 6 in Seattle, throwing six innings with three hits and two runs and taking a no-decision in a 5-3 loss. That was his first start for the Mariners since July 26 before being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.