Justin Verlander was dominant Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox. If not for one misplaced pitch, his performance may have been legendary.
No matter, the Houston Astros will be just fine settling with an eight-inning, one-hit masterpiece from their ace righthander, who led them to a 5-1 victory over the White Sox.
In his 45th career start against Chicago’s Southsiders, Verlander came out dealing. He started the night with two strikeouts in an 11-pitch first inning. Verlander went on to punch out nine of the first 13 hitters he faced and his only blemish through Chicago’s first 20 batters was a walk to Yonder Alonso.
Verlander registered his 11th strikeout to start the seventh inning and was only eight outs away from the glory of a third no-hitter. But Jose Abreu spoiled things with a long home run to dead center.
Verlander recovered to retire the next five batters he faced, working eight marvelous innings and allowing just one run and a single hit to go with a season-high 12 strikeouts.
Justin Verlander's 12Ks in under 23 Seconds. pic.twitter.com/f7fZRBCGnS— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 22, 2019
Verlander’s performance did allow him to join some legendary company, after all.
Justin Verlander was magnificent for the @astros tonight, striking out 12 and allowing just one hit - his fifth career game with 10+ Ks and one or fewer hits.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 22, 2019
Only three pitchers in the live-ball era have more such games: Nolan Ryan (19), Randy Johnson (10), and Bob Feller (6).
The major key for Verlander Tuesday night was the effectiveness of his slider, which may have never been better.
Verlander has 27 swinging strikes tonight … on 89 pitches. His slider has been ridiculous.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) May 22, 2019
Justin Verlander has 28 swinging strikes tonight.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 22, 2019
That's his most in any game in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008), by 4! Entering tonight, he'd pitched 365 games in that span and never had more than 24 swinging strikes.
It's also the most by any Astros P in that span.
Yuli Gurriel started the scoring with a solo home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning. The Astros have homered in 18 straight games, one off the franchise record set in 2017.
18 straight games with an #Astros HR.#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/macGbzvYda— Houston Astros (@astros) May 22, 2019
The Astros widened their lead with a patient approach in the fifth inning. Three consecutive full-count walks loaded the bases with no outs and the dangerous Alex Bregman at the plate. A wild pitch allowed Tony Kemp to dash home to put the Astros ahead, 2-0.
Bregman was eventually able to coax the Astros fourth straight walk to load the bases again.
Michael Brantley poked a two-run double the other way to give the Astros a 4-0 lead. Carlos Correa then smoked a single up the middle and the Astros were up 5-0.
The Astros worked six full counts in the bottom of the fifth inning, which lasted over 30 minutes, and forced White Sox pitchers to toss more than 50 pitches. In all, the Astros took six walks in the game.
White Sox starter Dylan Covey (0-3, 5.31) allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in four innings. Covey was yanked by manager Rick Renteria in the middle of an at-bat in the fifth inning after surrendering consecutive walks and falling behind the next batter 2-0.
Verlander (8-1, 2.24) has allowed only two runs and four hits total in his last three starts (22 IP) and has 29 strikeouts in that span. He’s allowed one run or less in seven of his last eight starts, has permitted only 10 runs total during that span, and has pitched at least six innings in each of those outings. Verlander ranks second in the American League with 8 wins, one behind Yankees’ starter Domingo German (who defeated Baltimore Tuesday).
Abreu, who came into the game hitting .366 (15-for-41) against Verlander, has always been one of the most difficult matchups for the Astros’ righthander.
Jose Abreu's no-hitter ending HR off Justin Verlander was his 6th career HR off Verlander, Abreu's most vs any pitcher.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 22, 2019
It's 3rd-most by anyone off Verlander. The only hitters with more HR vs Verlander are Carlos Santana (8) and Jim Thome (7).
Verlander has allowed 12 home runs in 10 starts this season, though 10 longballs have been of the solo variety.
Hector Rondon struck out two batters in a hitless ninth inning.
The Astros have allowed the White Sox to record just one run and seven hits in the first 18 innings of the series. Houston is now an MLB-best 18-4 at home and has won 15 of 17 games overall.
Aledmys Diaz collected two hits in his first game since experiencing hamstring discomfort last week in Boston. In only 45 games played, Correa is nearly halfway to the 65 RBI he produced in an injury-plagued 110 games last season.
The Astros hope George Springer (lower back stiffness) will be able to get some baseball-related work in tomorrow. Word is he still may not be game-ready until the Boston series later in the week.
George Springer (lower back tightness) told A.J. Hinch he’s available to run or play defense. He hasn’t yet resumed hitting. “The rotational part of it is what we’re trying to stay away from,” Hinch said.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) May 21, 2019
Only three pitchers (Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Feller) have thrown three or more no-hitters in their career.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros continue their four-game series with the White Sox Wednesday night. Gerrit Cole (4-4, 3.56) will oppose Ivan Nova (2-4, 7.42). First pitch is slated for 7:10 CT.