ASTROS DEFEAT NATIONALS

Justin Verlander allows 2 runs over 6 innings in season debut for Astros

Verlander on opening day
Astros beat the Nationals, 5-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Justin Verlander allowed two runs and four hits over six innings to win his season debut for the Houston Astros, 5-3 over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

The 41-year-old right-hander, who began the season on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, struck out four and walked none, throwing 50 of 78 pitches for strikes in his 258th win.

“He looked really good," Astros manager Joe Espada said. "Efficient, threw a ton of strikes.”

Verlander (1-0) averaged 94.3 mph with 35 four-seam fastballs and induced five groundouts. The nine-time All-Star retired the side in order four times and improved to 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five regular-season starts against the Nationals.

Ildemaro Vargas hit an RBI single in the third and Riley Adams homered in the fourth, cutting Washington’s deficit to 4-2.

Verlander had made a pair of minor league injury rehabilitation starts.

He retired his first eight batters before Adams doubled off the base of the wall in right-center field.

“Yeah, pleasantly surprised, honestly," Verlander said. “I kind of tried to cram spring training into three starts and control wasn’t quite what I would have liked. The rehab starts and then just look at mechanics and try to find something to make it click. I think what I worked on between last start and this start, just being a little more directional.”

Verlander was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA last year for the New York Mets and Houston, who acquired him ahead of the trade deadline. Espada was hopeful Verlander could key an early season turnaround.

“It’s very important," Espada said. "Despite how we started, it’s a long journey. we need him to lead us through this season. We have been in this before. We just got to be patient, continue to fight and once this rotation gets healthy and we start hitting our stride it’s going to be fun.”

Josh Hader allowed Jesse Winker's sacrifice fly in the ninth and got his second save, striking out his final two batters.

Houston (7-14) stole five bases and stopped a three-game losing streak. Jeremy Peña and Mauricio Dubón had three hits each, Yainer Diaz doubled twice, and Kyle Tucker doubled, singled, walked twice and stole two bases.

Washington manager Dave Martinez was ejected by plate umpire Cory Blaser for arguing a caught stealing call against Vargas that ended the eighth. The Nationals are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their 2019 World Series win over Houston in seven games.

MacKenzie Gore (2-1) allowed three runs and seven hits in four innings.

“Frustrating," Gore said. "But it was kind of one of those things where it wasn’t bad. We had a chance. I thought the bullpen was really good again. I just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t terrible. I just need to be a little better.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Espada says LHP Framber Valdez played catch Friday and felt well. Espada expects Valdez to throw a bullpen session of 30-40 pitches this weekend.

UP NEXT

RHP Ronel Blanco (2-0, 0.86) starts Saturday for Houston against RHP Trevor Williams (2-0, 3.45).

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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