HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander was splendid against the Detroit Tigers, pitching a two-hitter and fanning 11 in another dominant performance for the Astros.
Houston’s offense wasn’t nearly as sharp on Wednesday night, and it led to an unusual, tough-luck 2-1 loss.
“Just an incredible performance,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Just not one that we could help him with. We wasted a really good start by our starting pitcher.”
John Hicks and Ronny Rodriguez homered off Verlander — the only two baserunners he allowed.
“The two times I gave in and gave them a fastball, they hit a homer on it,” said Verlander, who has been critical of Major League Baseball for what he believes are intentional changes to the ball that have led to more home runs. “Baseball in 2019. I didn’t go out of the stretch at all the entire game, and we lost. I don’t know what else to say.”
With Verlander on the mound at home against the worst team in the majors, the Astros were more than a 5-1 favorite, one of the biggest favorites in an MLB game that Las Vegas oddsmakers could remember.
Hicks led off the ninth with a tiebreaking blast to left-center field off Verlander (15-5), who leads the majors in strikeouts with 239 but ranks second in homers allowed with 33.
Hicks has a long history with Verlander. His brother Daniel went to high school with him and was in his wedding to supermodel Kate Upton in 2017.
“It’s surreal for sure,” Hicks said. “I remember being 10 years old watching him and my brother play in high school and watching him dominate.”
Verlander retired the first 14 batters, with six strikeouts, before Rodriguez homered to the seats in right with two outs in the fifth. The veteran right-hander sat down another 10 straight before Hicks connected.
“That’s the biggest win for us in a long, long time, especially against a premium team like that, a World Series contender and Verlander on the mound,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “In Detroit we got him last year at the All-Star break and we got him again, but we really didn’t get him very much tonight.”
Verlander, who spent 13 seasons with the Tigers, didn’t fault the offense.
“I don’t blame anybody but myself,” he said. “I could have done a better job executing pitches there in the ninth inning.”
He threw 99 pitches and extended his franchise record of games with 10 or more strikeouts to seven as he lost for the first time since June 18.
Robinson Chirinos belted his 14th homer to left-center on Tyler Alexander’s first pitch of the seventh to tie it at 1. Chirinos finished with four hits. Needing a triple for the cycle, he doubled with two outs in the ninth but was thrown out trying to reach third to end the game.
“When you make a mistake like that, you don’t deserve to win the game,” Chirinos said.
Opener Daniel Norris allowed two hits in three innings for Detroit. Alexander worked four innings, Buck Farmer (5-4) walked one in a scoreless eighth and Joe Jimenez finished the Tigers’ six-hitter for his fourth save.
Jose Altuve walked with one out in the eighth, but was erased when he tried to go first to third on an infield grounder by Alex Bregman to end the inning.
Astros: RHP Josh James (shoulder soreness) will begin a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday night. Hinch said James, who has been out since July 23, likely won’t rejoin the team until September. … INF Aledmys Díaz took batting practice on Wednesday and could come off the injured list early next week. Díaz was hospitalized Aug. 17 after experiencing dizziness on the team bus in Oakland.
NATURE BOY CALLS
Houston outfielder Josh Reddick, who has used WWE star Ric Flair’s signature yell of “Woooo!” for years instead of walk-up music, hosted the flamboyant Flair at the game on Wednesday night. Reddick, who had a day off on Wednesday, donned a wrestling robe and championship belt when he came on the field during batting practice to greet the 70-year-old. Flair was decked out in gold jewelry, including necklaces, a bracelet and a blinged-out watch, and wore a white Astros jersey with his nickname, “Nature Boy,” printed on the back.
Reddick called Flair his hero and the wrestler was asked to describe the ballplayer.
“He’s married now, but before he was married … Josh Reddick would have been a kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing, limousine-riding, jet-flying, home run-hitting Houston Astro,” Flair said.
Flair bounced the ceremonial first pitch to Reddick, who was crouched behind the plate.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-8, 6.66 ERA) is scheduled to start for Detroit when the series wraps up on Thursday night. Zimmermann allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings in his last start against Tampa Bay, but did not factor in the decision.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (14-5, 2.87) will start on Thursday after being scratched from his last start on Aug. 15 because of discomfort in his right hamstring. Cole, who ranks second in the majors with 226 strikeouts, has won his last 10 decisions.
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