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Verlander hurls another gem, Astros blank Guardians 6-0 in series opener

Do you smell that? It’s JV cooking a Cy Young award!

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Guardians Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander is leaving us speechless with every game he starts for the Houston Astros. On Thursday, the living legend was at his best once again, proving he’s on the run for his third career Cy Young. With his help, the Astros left the Guardians scoreless and defeated them 6-0 to open the four-game series.

Verlander was absolutely filthy to remain as the MLB leader in wins (15) and ERA (1.73). The 39-year-old dazzled through six scoreless innings, allowed two hits (both singles), gave up one walk, and struck out five on 96 pitches (63 strikes!). Speaking of strikes, the right-hander has a 69% strike rate which ranks fourth-best in the Majors.

Among 39-year-old pitchers since 1901, Verlander is the ninth starter to win at least seventh straight games within a single season. That list is completed by Warren Spahn (10), Bartolo Colón, Kenny Rogers, Rick Reuschel, Carl Hubbell, and Spahn (8), plus Jamie Moyer and Ted Lyons with seven.

Over his last seven outings, JV has surrendered only four earned runs across 47 2/3 innings (0.76 ERA). This is the second time in his career that he’s allowed four or fewer earned runs over a seven-start span. It also happened back in 2011, when he won both the Cy Young and the MVP awards in the American League.

As another major stat, Verlander’s 1.73 ERA is the third-lowest in baseball history among pitchers at 39 years of age or older (minimum 100 IP). The other two are Cy Young’s 1.26 from 1908 and Bill Byrd’s 1.68 from 1948. How about that?

Offensively, the Astros’ biggest heroes were what you can call two unexpected men: Chas McCormick and Martín Maldonado. Both hit solo home runs and drove in three runs apiece.

It was a close game until the top of the fifth inning, when McCormick hit an RBI single and Maldonado registered a two-run double to make it 4-0. Later, in the seventh, both added more runs to the scoreboard with two long balls to bring the final two runs of the game.

On a negative note, Aledmys Díaz hurt his left ring finger during an outfield collision with Jake Meyers. Manager Dusty Baker couldn’t say whether Díaz would be available for Friday’s game or not.

After Verlander was done, Will Smith, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton combined for three innings to complete the shutout. Both teams will face each other on Friday with Framber Valdez on the mound for Houston while Cleveland is yet to announce a starting pitcher.