Justin Verlander is still peak Justin Verlander, even at 39 years of age. But I’m starting to think that when they grafted a new ligament into his elbow during his Tommy John surgery, they got the new ligament from the arm of Greg Maddux. Because even though Verlander still throws 95 MPH heat, he seems to have developed command almost on par with the great Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer.
Verlander got through eight innings throwing only 89 pitches, 63 for strikes. Verlander did not surrender a hit until Gio Urshela robbed him of the no-hitter with one out in the eighth. Although Verlander also allowed two walks, he faced the minimum 24 batters in his eight complete innings pitched. He struck out five Twins.
The Astros supported Verlander with some old-school small ball with the help of some smart baserunning, especially by Kyle Tucker, who was 2-2 stealing bases.
The second inning started with a single by Yuli Gurriel, which broke an 0-18 slump for him. Gurriel advanced to second on a walk to Tucker and took third on a fairly shallow flyout by Chas McCormick to center field. Jeremy Pena hit a tailor-made double-play ball, but with Tucker running on the pitch, the only play was at first, allowing Gurriel to score from third.
Tucker’s baserunning was indispensable to the Astros’ second run in the fourth inning. His stolen base with two outs allowed him to score on a Pena single, who hit in both of the Astros’ first two runs.
In the fifth inning, the Astros finally chased Twins starter Joe Ryan, who ended his day with four innings pitched, allowing four hits and five walks against extremely disciplined Astros hitters. Jose Altuve led off with a single followed by a Michael Brantley walk. Altuve scored on an Alex Bregman double, and Brantley scored on a shallow sacrifice fly by Yordan Alvarez off of reliever Danny Colombe.
Pouring it on in mini soda. pic.twitter.com/7STtcBxXHB— Houston Astros (@astros) May 11, 2022
The Astros added another small-ball run in the sixth when Jeremy Pena slid just under the tag following Alex Bregman’s shallow flyout to right field.
This view of JP3's slide. pic.twitter.com/AwT0nTQoEr— Houston Astros (@astros) May 11, 2022
Blake Taylor finished the job for Verlander and the Astros, allowing two infield hits and some long flyouts, but he preserved the shutout, the Astros’ fourth in the last eight games.
In the end, the Astros could only convert nine walks and seven hits into five runs, but with Verlander on the mound, that was more than enough.
Here’s what the Twins had to face tonight.
Justin Verlander, 77mph Curveball and Elevated 95mph Fastball, Individual Pitches + Overlay— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 11, 2022
Why would you swing at a Fastball way out of the zone? pic.twitter.com/ctNTzioGsf
The Twins and Astros face off again at 6:40 in Minnesota. Jose Urquidy goes against Chris Archer.