Friday, March 31

Justin Verlander gets ample support as Astros finish sweep of Mariners

After scoring 10 runs combined across Justin Verlander’s first four starts this season, the Astros gave Verlander seven runs of support and allowed him to finish 6 ⅔ innings on a season-high 101 pitches Wednesday in a 7-2 win over the Mariners. 

The Astros completed their first sweep of the season, outscoring the Mariners 14-2 in the three-game series at Minute Maid Park which included shutouts in the first two games. 

Jose Altuve went 1-for-2 with a walk before a foul ball mishap caused him to leave the game early with right groin soreness. Behind him at the top of the order, the Astros got a multi-RBI game from Michael Brantley (2-for-4) and Alex Bregman (3-for-3). 

Verlander, who shut out the Mariners through eight innings April 16, yielded five hits, two earned runs, one home run and no walks Wednesday while fanning three batters. Houston had a streak of 24 scoreless innings against Seattle before Eugenio Suárez hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning. 

Following a two-out single by Bregman and a walk by Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel drove in the game’s first run with an RBI double down the right-field line in the bottom of the first inning.

The Astros continued to wail on Mariners rookie starter Matt Brash, who loaded the bases with one out in the second inning. Brash threw 13 balls in his first 21 pitches of the frame, striking out Jason Castro but allowing a single to Aledmys Díaz and walks to Chas McCormick and Altuve. With the bases loaded, Brantley delivered a two-run single. Bregman tacked on another run with an RBI single for a 4-0 lead. 

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Verlander faced the minimum through three innings on 33 pitches, including retiring the first six batters in a row. The Mariners got their first base runner in the third inning when Díaz flubbed his glove-to-hand exchange on an infield ground ball scored as a hit, but Verlander induced a flyout and then fielded a comebacker to kick start a 1-6-3 double play. 

In the fourth inning, Seattle struck consecutive two-out singles which Verlander erased with his second strikeout of the day. 

Houston expanded its lead in the fourth inning when Wyatt Mills took over for Brash. Altuve fouled a ball off his groin in the middle of his at-bat but continued and produced a leadoff single; he would exit the game the next inning. Brantley whacked a fly ball off the top of the left-field wall mere centimeters from being a home run, but umpires reviewed the play for nearly two minutes only to confirm it was a double. Bregman’s sacrifice fly drove in Altuve before Alvarez and Gurriel both grounded out. 

In the sixth inning, Bregman followed McCormick’s leadoff walk with an RBI double off the left-center field wall. Alvarez brought Bregman home with a single but was thrown out at second base. 

Still, Verlander entered the seventh inning with a 7-0 lead and a pitch count of 80. On his 92nd pitch, surpassing his previous season-high of 91, Verlander sent Jesse Winker down swinging on a slider. Five pitches later, he hung another slider over the plate to Suárez for a two-run homer. 

Verlander procured one more out before Ryne Stanek secured the final out of the seventh and Parker Mushinski retired six consecutive batters through two frames.

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The win placed the Astros three games above .500 and continued their run of dominance against the Mariners at home, with a 26-4 record against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park since the start of the 2019 season. 

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