VINTAGE VERLANDER

Justin Verlander dominates former team as Astros rout Tigers

Justin Verlander dominates former team as Astros rout Tigers
Astros win the series! Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images.

Justin Verlander dominated his former team and Kyle Tucker homered as the Houston Astros beat the Detroit Tigers 9-3 on Sunday at Comerica Park.

Verlander (2-1) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out eight. He now has 3,365 career strikeouts, two behind former teammate and friendly rival Max Scherzer for 11th on the all-time list and six behind Greg Maddux for 10th.

“Max isn't done — he's supposed to be back soon and it was fun battling back and forth with him last year — but that's pretty cool,” Verlander said. “This game has been around so long, and any time you can get into the top 10 ... jeez. That would be one of those things where I really try to take a beat and appreciate it.”

Mauricio Dubón had four hits for Houston and Jake Meyers went 3 for 3 with three RBIs despite not entering the game until the seventh inning.

“It is nice to be able to give (Jose) Altuve a day off and see Dubón come in and do that,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “When he stays in the zone and swings at the pitches he can handle, he's a pretty good hitter.”

Jack Flaherty (0-3) took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. Detroit relievers allowed six runs on 11 hits in the final 2 1/3 innings.

“Jack did a good job of holding them down,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “They put a lot of pressure on him with baserunners and he kept making pitches. He was just unfortunate the offense ran into Verlander and couldn't help him.”

Verlander retired the first 14 Tigers before Colt Keith beat out a slow dribbler to short, and he was promptly thrown out trying to steal second.

“He's on his way to Cooperstown for a reason,” said Spencer Torkelson, who went 0 for 3 against Verlander with two strikeouts. “I thought we had a good plan — capitalize on mistakes — and we realized early there weren't going to be many mistakes to capitalize on.”

Houston had baserunners in the first four innings, but Detroit turned three double plays. After Dubón singled in the sixth off Flaherty, though, Tucker hit his 13th homer to make it 2-0.

With two out in the bottom of the inning, Verlander walked Carson Kelly and Riley Greene before hitting Mark Canha. Matt Vierling lined out to left on the next pitch.

Joey Wentz replaced Flaherty with two outs in the seventh and a runner on first. After Joey Loperfido singled, Meyers and Dubón made it 4-0 with RBI singles. Wentz walked Tucker to load the bases, but Alex Lange got Jeremy Peña to fly out.

Lange allowed four runs while only getting one out in the eighth.

Verlander finished with a perfect seventh. He is now 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA in seven starts against Detroit, having struck out 62 batters in 46 innings.

“He demonstrated all the arts of pitching,” Hinch said.

The Tigers broke the shutout in the ninth when Akil Baddoo tripled and scored on a balk before Spencer Torkelson hit his first home run of the season.

UP NEXT

Astros: Head home to start a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics. RHP Spencer Arrighetti (0-4, 8.44) is scheduled to start Monday against Oakland RHP Ross Stripling (1-6, 5.14).

Tigers: Remain home for three games with the Miami Marlins. RHP Matt Manning (0-1, 4.24) is expected to be called up from Triple-A Toledo to start Monday for Detroit.

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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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