CLEVELAND (Neth.) – Justin Verlander threw six scoreless innings for his MLB-leading 15th win, Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado each homered to have three RBI’s, and the AL West-leading Houston Astros defeated the Cleveland Guardians 6-0 on Thursday-evening.
Verlander (15-3), who made his comeback from Tommy John surgery, extended his winning streak to seven starts and tied with Herb Pennock for 55th place all-time with 241 wins. He gave up two hits, both singles, and struckout five.
“It’s nice to be behind the plate for him,” said Maldonado. “Watching his prep between games and his execution on the mound, that’s what future Hall of Famers do. I think he was born that way.”
In addition to leading the majors in wins, Verlander is the first with a 1.73 ERA. The righthander is 11-16 in his career at Progressive Field, where his 5.17 ERA is the highest of any margin he has thrown more than twice.
“Is it still more than five o’clock? Well, I still have some demons here to exorcise,” Verlander joked. “These guys haunted me for a while. I’m not going to say I focused on that, but it was definitely on my mind.”
Verlander also activated his $25 million player option for 2023 by hitting 130 innings. The 39-year-old will earn the same amount this season under the new contract he signed last winter.
“I wanted a player option and I thought that was more than a fair question because they’re going to brawl to pay an old man,” said Verlander. “Because if I didn’t throw 130, I wouldn’t. still earn what I earned this year.
“If I cross that threshold, I’m fine, but I’m not thinking about that at all right now.”
Will Smith, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton completed the three-hitter and helped Houston get within 1 1/2 games of the inactive Yankees for the best record in the AL.
McCormick gave the Astros a 2-0 lead with runscoring singles in the third and fifth off of Cleveland starter Zach Plesac (2-10). Maldonado added a two-run double in the fifth against Nick Sandlin to make it 4-0.
McCormick and Maldonado struck again in the seventh with solo home runs, the eleventh of the season for both, off Kirk McCarty. McCormick tied his career high with three hits in one night when Houston left eight runners on base in the first three innings.
“I haven’t seen them straighten a lot of balls, but there was a lot of traffic from the start,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona. “And Verlander was as advertised.”
Cleveland started the day one game behind AL Central leader Minnesota and one game from the last wildcard spot. Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor and Austin Hedges accounted for their goals in the loss.
Kwan equaled Boston’s JD Martinez for the longest hit streak in the AL this year in 18 games. It’s also the longest run by a rookie since Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes had a 19-gamer in 2020-2021.
Plesac remained scoreless since June 5 in Baltimore, giving up four runs, seven hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. The righthander is 0-6 in his last 10 starts and has dropped all of his five night game decisions.
“I’m being tested now, it’s just a weird time,” Plesac said. “I’ll never back down and get out of this funk of unhappiness or whatever it is. Seems like I can’t take a break.”
Sigh of relief
The Astros picked up three key veterans in 1B Trey Mancini, C Christian Vazquez and LHP Will Smith before the MLB trade deadline earlier this week, giving manager Dusty Baker a deep breath.
“It actually feels nice to be done with that,” Baker said. “We’re in the dog days of the season, but this year it seems like the dog showed up a little early.”
Vazquez is third in the AL with 74 starts behind the plate, the top 73 with Boston.
“Going to a new team is a tough adjustment for catchers, and that’s where Vazquez is now,” Baker said. out must call to calm a man down. It is not easy.”
Astros: OR Aledmys Diaz (left ring finger) was injured in the eighth inning when he collided with midfielder Jake Meyers on a flyout to left center by Cleveland’s Austin Hedges. Diaz underwent post-match medical tests.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (right wrist sprain), who has been on the 15-day injured list since July 14, will begin rehab on Friday for Triple-A Columbus against Rochester. Francona said the goal for Civale is to throw four innings.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (9-4, 2.80 ERA) has earned the win in all three of his career appearances against Cleveland, with a 2.81 ERA over two starts and one relief outing.
Guardians: RHP Hunter Gaddis is recalled from Triple-A Columbus for his major league debut. Gaddis is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA since his promotion from Double-A Akron.