They say the great pitchers find a way to win even if they don’t have their best stuff.
Maybe so, but even on their best nights those pitchers need some run support, and a little luck.
Justin Verlander is said such pitcher, but this was his worst game as an Astro. For the first time he allowed four earned runs and, oh my, seven hits in a game, going 6.2 in this one, fanning six Blue Jays. That’s the kind of so-called “worst game” that the best pitcher will typically give you. With a little more help from his friends, and a little bit of luck, this could have gone the other way.
The Blue Jays got an early jump on Verlander in the first inning on a Justin Smoak two run double, scoring Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte.
The Astros fought back in the bottom of the inning, reducing the deficit on a Yuli Gurriel RBI single (who else) scoring Jose Altuve, who got on with a double.
The Blue Jays almost blew the game open in the third, getting runners on second and third with no outs. But Verlander proved his grit, inducing an infield pop up, and then struck out the next two Blue Jays to extinguish the threat.
In the bottom of the third Alex Bregman tied the score with a solo home run, his twelvth of the year and seventh in the month of June. In the fourth Bregman would strike again, singling home center fielder Jake Marisnick and giving the Astros a momentary lead.
But in the fifth one of the grand old men of baseball, Curtis Granderson, age 37, tied the score for the Jays with a solo home run to right. Then in the seventh he gave Toronto their final lead with another home run, a just barely, opposite field Crawford Boxes special. Statcast gave the ball a 26% hit probability, and an exit velocity of 94.9 MPH, not even considered a “hard hit” ball according to Statcast.
This home run chased Justin Verlander on his 112th pitch. Will Harris finished the inning, but surrendered a two run home run to Randall Grichuk in the eighth, a 471 foot blast way into Albert Pujols territory far above the Crawford Boxes.
The Astros mounted a spirited but ultimately heartbreaking rally in the bottom of the ninth, when pinch hitters Tony Kemp walked and Josh Reddick got a single, bringing on the Astros top home run hitter George Springer. Springer, who is 5 for his last 59 at bats, launched a shot just over the right field fence. But our home town boy from Rosenberg, blasted Grichuk again, timed a perfect leap and stole the ball from a waiting fan, preventing the Astros from tying the score.
Reliever Seunghwan Oh proceeded to retire Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to end the game and earn the save.
It was a good night for former Astros. J.A. Happ was the winning pitcher, now 10-3, and Teoscar Hernandez was 3-5 with a run scored. Hernandez and Tyler Clippard received their World Series rings before the game.
Justin Verlander took the loss. He is now 9-3.
The Astros and Blue Jays square off again tomorrow, with Charlie Morton trying to be the first Astros pitcher to win ten games. His opponent is unannounced at this time, although reportedly it will be Ryan Borucki, the Jays’ number 8 prospect.
Game time is 7:10 CDT
Box Score and video here.