HOUSTON -- The Giants were confronted with the unwanted task of facing American League ERA leaders Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander during a two-game series at Minute Maid Park. They found out what teams in the AL already know: these guys are good.
One day after Cole struck out eight batters in six innings in Tuesday's series opener, Verlander held the Giants to one run and three hits while striking out nine in six innings to lead the Astros a sweep of the series with a 4-1 win Wednesday afternoon.
"He had to battle pretty hard today, and he still came up with incredible results," Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Verlander, who threw 97 pitches. "I'm happy for him. They weren't chasing his slider today. He threw some pretty good strikes on breaking balls, curveballs. His fastball was good. It wasn't his elite fastball, yet he still pitched his way to a win."
The Astros won their third in a row and their 11th in 14 games to move a season-high 14 games over .500 (32-18) heading into a seven-game road trip to Cleveland and New York.
"I'm obviously happy that we are starting to pull things together," Hinch said. "We're a good team, and we're playing like it. I think we're starting to do a lot of things right. I like our defense, I like our pitching, I like our hitting. I like our team at Game 1 and I like our team at Game 50."
Will Harris, Brad Peacock and Ken Giles each followed Verlander with a scoreless inning in relief, with Giles improving to 9-for-9 in save chances. The Astros' bullpen has a 0.79 ERA in the team's past 12 games.
Verlander (6-2) retired the first nine batters he faced before Gorkys Hernandez led off the fourth inning with a triple to center and scored on a Buster Posey sac fly for the only Giants run of the game. Verlander has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all 16 of his regular-season starts with the Astros, tying the fourth-longest streak in club history.
"I felt OK," Verlander said. "Probably a little rusty from the seven days [betweens starts]. Overall, I was able to execute pitches when I needed to against a really good lineup. These guys have got a bunch of veterans that really know how to hit and make you work. Obviously, I'd like to go more than six innings, but these guys did a great job, top to bottom. Especially, kind of, in the middle of their lineup. They all battle you and make it tough to get outs."
The Astros finally got to Giants starter Jeff Samardzija in the fourth, with help from right fielder Andrew McCutchen. The former NL Most Valuable Player Award winner made a long run towards the line on a popup off the bat of Yuli Gurriel, and he ran under the ball but couldn't catch it. Carlos Correa scored from first on the error to tie the game.
George Springer rocketed his team-leading 10th homer of the season to left field in the fifth, scoring Tony Kemp, to push Houston's lead to 3-1, and Correa added an RBI single later in the inning to drive Samardzija (1-3) from the game after 4 2/3 innings.
"I had just gotten blown up the pitch before and was just trying to be on time, to be honest with you, and hit something hard," Springer said about crushing a 1-2 slider 411 feet.
The Astros have allowed 126 runs through 50 games, which are the fewest in the Major Leagues since 1920 (live ball era). The previous record of 128 was set by the Indians in '68.
HE SAID IT
"I think he's a Hall of Famer. He seems to have gotten better the last few years. Having him on my team now is awesome. He's so smart, he works hard. He knows every in and out. That's why, in my opinion, he's a Hall of Famer." -- Springer, on Verlander
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Giants successfully challenged a call at first base in the eighth inning, getting a safe call overturned. Correa was initially called safe at first base after a throw from pitcher Cory Gearrin to an outstretched Pablo Sandoval. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official definitively determined that the fielder's foot was touching the base when the ball contacted the interior of his glove.
The Astros will send Charlie Morton to the mound to begin a four-game series at 5:10 p.m. CT Thursday at Cleveland. Morton's 1.94 ERA across 55 2/3 innings ranks third in the American League -- and third on his own team behind Verlander and Cole. Morton (6-0) is Houston's only starter without a loss. The Indians will counter with Mike Clevinger (3-1, 2.87 ERA).