Justin Verlander has recouped some of what made him the best pitcher in the American League three years ago and in doing so added some validation to the work needed coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Verlander threw three hits in eight innings for his first win since July 2020, and the Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0 on Saturday night.
A day after watching the Mariners rack up 11 points against Houston’s throw, Verlander (1-1) appeared to be back in the form that won him the 2019 AL Cy Young Award. He picked up his first victory since winning over Seattle on July 24, 2020, the opening day of the shortened 2020 season, before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
“I wouldn’t have done all this hard work if I hadn’t thought I could still throw at a high level,” Verlander said. “But that being said, it’s really rewarding to have that feeling again to go out there after a tough loss yesterday and to be able to recover ourselves and (go) deep into the game, and really do what I’m going for. expect to do most of the time outside.”
Relying mostly on his fastball and slider, Verlander went eight innings for the first time since Sept. 1, 2019, when he didn’t touch the Toronto Blue Jays. The only hits he allowed Seattle were an Adam Frazier single in the first and Ty France singles in the fourth and sixth.
Verlander struck out eight scoreless on 87 shots. The only other batter to reach base was JP Crawford, who was hit by a pitch in the seventh. Verlander was surprised to see his pitch count so low after seven innings, giving him a chance to come back for the eighth.
But there was no lobbying for the ninth.
“He kind of emptied the tank in that eighth inning,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Now, in a month? He would probably want to finish this game.
Verlander threw five solid innings on his season debut last week against the Angels, only to be edged out by fellow recovered Tommy John Noah Syndergaard.
“That’s about as dominant a performance as you’re going to see and for a guy who’s been in this league for a long, long time,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Martín Maldonado hit the mark on offense with a two-run homer for his first hit of the season.
Maldonado was hitless on his first 15 at-bats before driving an 0-1 pitch from Chris Flexen into left field for a 3-0 lead in fifth. Jeremy Peña started the inning with a sharp single to cap an eight-pitch at-bat, and Maldonado didn’t miss a misplaced fastball from Flexen.
“A really bad pitch that really cost us that one,” Flexen said. “Fought, was effective, but not the best.
Peña tripled in the seventh and scored on Jose Altuve’s reliever Matt Festa.
Flexen (0-2) nearly drew Verlander until he gave up the long ball. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out three. The Mariners are yet to score this season with Flexen on the mound.
Verlander has now pitched 3,001 innings in his career. He said being able to rack up innings over the course of a season was still meaningful to him.
“I’m very proud to take the ball every five days, every five games and just be there. So to reach this milestone, I think it’s just a testament to that,” Verlander said. .
Seattle acquired RHP Riley O’Brien from Cincinnati for either name or cash. O’Brien went to high school in the Seattle suburb of Shoreline and made a start last season for the Reds.
Astros: Closest All-Star Ryan Pressly has been placed on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation. Pressly returned to Houston for further examination. LHP Parker Mushinski was selected from Triple-A Sugar Land to take the place of Pressly. … DH Yordan Alvarez was back at the stadium after being sick for several days with a non-COVID-19 illness. Alvarez was involved in the pre-match work, but the decision to return to the roster won’t be made until Sunday.
Mariners: RF Mitch Haniger was placed on COVID-19 IL ahead of the game. Haniger reported symptoms and tested positive at the ballpark, Servais said. Seattle recalled INF Donovan Walton from Triple-A Tacoma to take Haniger’s place.
Astros: RHP José Urquidy (1-0, 1.80 ERA) allowed four hits and a run in five innings in his first start against the Angels.
Mariners: RHP Matt Brash (0-1, 3.38) makes his second league start. Brash pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs in his debut against the White Sox.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports