Justin Verlander struck out a season-high 12 batters over seven strong innings and the Houston Astros earned a 4-1 victory over the visiting Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.
Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth inning, fanning two, for his 11th save.
Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, the Mariners fashioned a threat, loading the bases against Astros reliever Rafael Montero with one out. Montero walked the bases full before inducing a grounder up the middle off the bat of Abraham Toro that shortstop Jeremy Pena smothered before stepping on second base and firing a throw to first baseman Yuli Gurriel that nipped Toro.
Pena delivered an RBI single in the fourth that proved decisive, driving home Yordan Alvarez two batters after Kyle Tucker recorded a single that scored Alex Bregman. Both hits came against Seattle right-hander Chris Flexen (2-7), who allowed five hits, two runs and three walks over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out two.
Alvarez provided insurance in the eighth with a two-run homer, his 17th, off lefty Ryan Borucki.
Verlander (7-2) rebounded from his previous start against the Mariners, his worst of the season, in resounding fashion. He allowed only two baserunners through three innings and limited the damage to one run after Seattle strung together three successive one-out hits in the fourth.
After Adam Frazier followed singles from J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suarez with a line drive to right field that loaded the bases, Seattle grabbed a 1-0 lead when Toro tapped a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve, whose feed to Pena eliminated Frazier but was far too slow for Pena to complete the turn for an inning-ending double play.
Verlander fanned Taylor Trammell to cap the frame before adding seven additional strikeouts to his ledger.
He sandwiched called third strikes against Jesse Winker and Julio Rodriguez around a two-out, Ty France single in the fifth. Crawford and Frazier reached in the sixth but Verlander struck out the side, including Toro and Trammell in succession to close that inning. Verlander caught France with a slider for a called third strike to end the seventh and set a new season standard.
With his strikeout of Cal Raleigh in the seventh, Verlander passed Hall of Famer John Smoltz for 17th place on the career list with 3,085. He passed Mets right-hander Max Scherzer for 18th place with his strikeout of Winker in the fifth inning. Verlander threw a season-high 108 pitches.
–Field Level Media