The Houston Astros have scored a lot of runs in the month of May. They didn’t need much Wednesday night.
Justin Verlander tossed seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball against his former club and the Astros extended their winning streak to eight games with a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Although the Astros put up fewer than eight runs for the first time in five games, the offensive fireworks began early yet again. Alex Bregman blasted a home run two batters in to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. The longball was Bregman’s ninth of May and 14th of the season in just 42 games. He hit 31 home runs last season in 157 games.
Alex Bregman has 10 home runs in his last 15 games. His nine home runs in May are three shy of a franchise record set by Jimmy Wynn in 1969— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 15, 2019
The quick-strike offense is becoming a common occurrence for the Astros, even without Jose Altuve. Wednesday marked the third time in the last four games Houston has scored in the first inning. It was also the fourth game in a row in which the Astros scored first, and the eighth such occasion in their past 10 contests. Quite a contrast to the sluggish offense the Astros endured to start the season.
The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-out RBI single from Jake Marisnick. That was all their ace would need.
Verlander retired the first eight Tigers he faced before allowing a two-strike, solo homer to Jacoby Jones to cut the Astros lead in half. Even though Verlander has allowed a lot of home runs so far this season, they have mostly been of the solo variety.
In fact, tonight marked the sixth time this season Verlander has allowed a solo homer as the only runs on his ledger; consider, he’s only made 10 starts. He’s also permitted one run or less in seven outings.
Verlander (7-1, 2.38) had nine strikeouts in his seven innings of work Wednesday. However, it was the first time in three starts against his former team that he failed to log double-digit strikeouts.
Even so, it was still a relatively efficient and certainly productive night for the Astros’ ace and the AL’s early Cy Young leader. Verlander threw only 42 pitches through the first three innings against Detroit, and 101 in total. The first two Tigers to pitch Wednesday night both eclipsed 42 pitches in less than two innings.
Verlander also had some of his best stuff of the season, particularly when he utilized his slider.
Justin Verlander induced 23 swings and misses tonight against the Tigers, equaling the most of his 10 starts this year.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 16, 2019
Justin Verlander generated 12 misses on his slider tonight. That's the highest amount generated in his career.#TakeItBack— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) May 16, 2019
Aledmys Diaz scored his second run of the night on a sacrifice fly from Robinson Chirinos in the fourth inning to increase the Astros lead back to two, 3-1.
Following two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, it looked like the Tigers might pounce on Verlander. Josh Harrison worked a full count after falling behind 0-2 and ultimately crushed a triple to deep centerfield. Verlander walked the next two batters to load the bases for leadoff hitter Niko Goodrum, who smashed a liner right at Diaz for the third out.
Niko Goodrum's bases-loaded line drive off Verlander had a 105.8 mph exit velocity and a .740 expected batting average. It was in the glove of Aledmys Diaz once he lunged to his left.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) May 16, 2019
The Astros promptly loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, courtesy of two errors and a walk. But they could only get one run out of the opportunity on a fielder’s choice groundout by George Springer, who leads the AL with 40 RBI.
Marisnick added an opposite-field triple in the eighth inning for his second RBI of the game to give the Astros a 5-1 lead.
Ryan Pressly extended his scoreless streaks to 37 innings and 38 games with a flawless eighth. Roberto Osuna, pitching for the first time since Friday, struck out the side in a perfect ninth.
The Astros have won five straight road games, though two of those came in a “neutral” game in Mexico. They have a 7.5 game lead, the largest divisional divide in baseball, over the Seattle Mariners in the AL West.
Marisnick is hitting .400 (10-for-25) against lefthanded pitchers this season. Conversely, Bregman is hitting just .189 (7-for-37) against lefties, even with his first-inning home run Wednesday night.
Josh Reddick collected two more hits and leads the club with a .333 average. Carlos Correa also had two hits. Correa now has a five-game hitting streak and multiple hits in three of those.
Justin Verlander logged his 98th win at Comerica Park, by far the most in the stadium’s history. Max Scherzer ranks second with 46 wins. AJ Hinch and Michael Brantley celebrated their 45th and 32nd birthdays, respectively, on Wednesday.
Soto (0-2, 13.50), who was making his second major-league appearance, allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in his two innings of work.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros have the day off tomorrow before beginning a three-game series Friday in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. Scheduled starters for the opener of that series are Gerrit Cole (4-4, 3.48) and former AL Cy Young-winner Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.15). First pitch is slated for 6:10 CT.