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Astros' Justin Verlander reveals important takeaways from first rehab start

Astros' Justin Verlander reveals important takeaways from first rehab start
Verlander felt healthy after his start for the Space Cowboys. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Justin Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six in pitching into the fourth inning of his first injury rehabilitation start Sunday for the Houston Astros' Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

The 41-year-old right-hander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, threw 46 of 65 pitches for strikes against Oakland's Las Vegas Aviators. Verlander retired his first four batters, then allowed hits to his next six. Five of those were for extra bases, leading to five runs.

Verlander began this season on the 15-day injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

“I did accomplish my No. 1 goal, which was to throw 65 pitches and feel healthy,” Verlander said. “In an ideal world, you go out there and the timing is right, and everything is where you want it to be, but it’s not super realistic. My timing was a little off, so my pitches were a little erratic. Time on the mound is the only thing that can help resolve that.”

Carlos Pérez hit a tying solo homer in the second, Daz Cameron doubled and Hoy Park singled. Brett Harris hit a two-run triple, and Max Muncy and Esteury Ruiz hit consecutive RBI doubles.

After a 1-2-3 third, Park reached on an error leading off the fourth, and Verlander was pulled following a walk to Harris and Muncy's RBI double that led to an unearned run.

“Stuff looked good, 95, threw some good sliders and some changeups,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. "Hopefully he feels good tomorrow. I think that’s the most important thing, how he bounces back.”

Verlander, reacquired by Houston from the New York Mets last July, is expected to make at least one more rehab start in the minors. He was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA in 27 starts last year.

Astros right-hander Shawn Dubin also made his first rehab appearance, striking out two of four batters and throwing 16 of 22 pitches for strikes. He began the season on the IL due to a right forearm strain.

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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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