Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander, bullpen blank Philadelphia Phillies, lose no-hit bid in 9th

HOUSTON — After capping his great comeback season with another stellar start Tuesday night, Justin Verlander has been too busy looking ahead to think too much about what he’s already accomplished.

“I wouldn’t be who I am now or in this position if I was just happy with where I ended the regular season. … I’m already trying to prepare and prepare for the postseason,” he said. “But at the same time I see the numbers, I know how good they are and I appreciate that.”

Verlander struck out 10 without conceding a hit in five innings, and Houston’s bullpen kept the Philadelphia Phillies in a 10-0 win without a hit through the ninth inning.

Verlander, who has thrown three no-hitters in his career, walked one before being pulled after 77 pitches. The AL West champions, the Astros, were leading 8-0 against the NL wildcard Phillies at the time.

“It’s great to have him on the mound,” said manager Dusty Baker. “The team is excited, the fans are excited, I think baseball is excited to be on the mound on a national stage like this. He’s a pitcher.”

Rookie Hunter Brown threw 2⅓ hitless innings and Hector Neris had the last two outs of the eighth inning. Will Smith came into play for the ninth time and Garrett Stubbs went into midfield to break the no-hit bid, prompting some boos from the crowd.

“Starting in the fifth inning, you start thinking about it,” Baker said of the possibility of a no-hitter. “They start counting the number of outs. … Everyone in our bullpen, the guys that came in, wanted to be a part of it.”

Verlander added: “It didn’t work out. It wasn’t our night.”

Jeremy Peña, Kyle Tucker and Martín Maldonado scored as the Astros leapfrogged Rangers Suárez (10-7) for six carries in two innings to go in their 1,000th. Victory at Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000, to build up a big lead early on.

Verlander (18-4) clinched his 18th American League win, and his MLB-leading ERA of 1.75 is the lowest for a qualified pitcher in the AL, except for the pandemic-shortened season, since Pedro Martinez achieved an ERA of 1.74 in 2000.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner’s ERA is also the lowest of his career, surpassing his 2.40 ERA in 2011 when he won his first Cy Young and was also named an AL MVP while at Detroit.

Verlander, who also won the Cy Young in 2019, is a top contender to win the award for a third time this season after returning to form after a nearly two-year absence following Tommy John’s surgery.

“To me, this may not be what was supposed to happen, but what I expected,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly how good the season was going to be, but I figured I would be me when I’m healthy, which is usually pretty good.”

The 39-year-old Verlander was dominant from the start on Tuesday, fanning out eight consecutive hitters at one point to set a career high and tie a franchise record.

That eight-strikeout streak began when he tricked Darick Hall into finishing the first. He then hit the side in the second and third innings before hitting Bryce Harper to start the fourth. The streak ended when Alec Bohm lost his feet afterwards. Verlander didn’t allow a baserunner until Brandon Marsh left to start the fifth.

But he got right back on track, finishing off Bryson Stott and Nick Maton before Matt Vierling landed in a force out to end the inning. Verlander received a warm ovation as he walked to the dugout, and he tapped his cap at the crowd just before leaving the field.

He would have served a little longer on Tuesday but caused the top of one of his fingers to bleed by “clicking” on his glove. Verlander said it’s something he’s dealt with before and it’s not serious, but he sees no reason to push it at this point in the season.

Harper and Marsh played Tuesday, but the Phillies fielded a lineup missing many of their regular starters after securing their first playoff spot since 2011 a night earlier.

Jose Altuve scored a double leadoff before Peña scored in midfield to make it 2-0. Yordan Alvarez then doubled from the wall in left field and Alex Bregman walked.

Tucker then smashed a ball into the right field seats to extend the lead to 5-0.

Maldonado pushed it to 6-0 when he opened up Houston’s second goal with his shot down left center.

Tucker has 30 homers, 107 RBIs and 25 stolen bases this season to join Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell as the only player in franchise history with at least 30 homers, 25 steals and 100 RBIs in a season. Bagwell did it twice, in 1997 and 1999.

Suárez allowed seven hits and six carries, with a career-high three homers in three innings.

Christian Vazquez and Mauricio Dubon each hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to make it 8-0.

NO-HITTERS THIS SEASON

There were three no-hitters that season, including two combined no-hitters.

Los Angeles Angels rookie Reid Detmers kept the Tampa Bay Rays winless in May. The New York Mets had a combined no-hitter against the Phillies and the Astros had a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34729241/houston-astros-justin-verlander-bullpen-blank-philadelphia-phillies-lose-no-hit-bid-9th Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander, bullpen blank Philadelphia Phillies, lose no-hit bid in 9th

Emma Bowman

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