It looks like there’s hope for Astros starting pitching after all. And his name is —who else — Justin Verlander.
For the first time since arriving back in Houston, Justin Verlander truly seemed like the Verlander of old. He completed six shutout innings, allowing five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. He threw 67 strikes out of 97 pitches. It was the first quality start thrown by an Astros starter not named Verlander or France since the Framber Valdez no-hitter on August 2nd.
Verlander got more than enough offensive support, and the offense got plenty of support from the Red Sox defense.
The Astros scored quickly on Red Sox starter Tanner Houck in the first inning with Kyle Tucker’s 25th homer, a two-run shot to the upper deck in right field. After Tucker’s shot, the Astros loaded the bases but failed to score.
To the second deck of his castle. pic.twitter.com/rwjbnjm1vn— Houston Astros (@astros) August 23, 2023
The Astros added another run in the fourth on a bizarre play with some — uncharacteristically for the Astros — smart baserunning. Mauricio Dubon was on second with one out when Martin Maldonado bunted.
His ball was allowed to roll along the fair side of the foul line, and when it became clear that the ball would stay fair, catcher Connor Wong shoveled it to first for the out. But by that time, Dubon was heading home from second. He outran third baseman Rafael Devers to the plate to score the Astros’ third run.
In the seventh inning, the Astros added four runs thanks to clutch hitting and poor Red Sox fielding. Bregman walked with one out. Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected for protesting the called ball four. Here is the heat map. Ball four is the sixth pitch.
Next, Kyle Tucker reached on a fielder’s choice that should have been a 1-6-3 double play. Yainer Diaz singled home Bregman, and a throwing error by Astros-product Wilyer Abreu in right field playing in his first game advanced the runners to second and third.
(Abreu was 2-3 in his debut, and he may make Astros fans regret the Christian Vazquez trade more than they already do.)
Chas McCormick followed with a soft grounder to second. Luis Urias threw home, but his throw was off, and too late to catch Tucker sliding home.
Jon Singleton capped off the scoring with his second double of the night, a two-run shot down the right-field line.
Here’s a sample of Verlander’s night.
Welcome back Justin.
An Adam Duvall solo home run off Ryne Stanek in the eighth inning accounted for the first Boston run. In the ninth inning, a Justin Turner single off Rafael Montero accounted for two more. However, a double play ended the ball game with the Astros ahead 7-3.
The Sox committed three errors; out of the seven Astros runs, only three were earned. But even the three errors do not reflect how sloppy the Red Sox play was tonight.
Furthermore, the Red Sox were only 1-10 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.
I’ll give the final word to the Red Sox TV commentators. “The Astros had their head in the game, and the Red Sox had their head somewhere else.”
Jose Urquidy takes the mound tomorrow at MMP at 7:10 CT.