BALTIMORE -- Justin Verlander was holding nothing back in his final start of the regular season Saturday -- or about why he has a strong case to win another Cy Young Award.Verlander, making his final regular-season start, struck out 10 batters in six scoreless innings, and George Springer and Carlos
BALTIMORE -- Justin Verlander was holding nothing back in his final start of the regular season Saturday -- or about why he has a strong case to win another Cy Young Award.
Verlander, making his final regular-season start, struck out 10 batters in six scoreless innings, and George Springer and Carlos Correa homered and drove in two runs each to lead the Astros a franchise-record-tying 102nd win, 4-3, over the Orioles in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Camden Yards.
The outing capped a terrific season for Verlander, who went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and threw 214 innings, allowing 156 hits and 37 walks while striking out a career-high 290 batters. He's likely to start Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Indians on Friday in Houston.
"I feel happy about it," Verlander said. "It was a great season. I came in this Spring Training with the intent of starting better and carrying that through the season, and I felt that was a job accomplished. I hit a little lull there for about a month and a half, but other than that I feel like my body of work speaks for itself."
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Verlander won the 2011 Cy Young -- and Most Valuable Player -- while with the Tigers and has finished second twice. Boston's Chris Sale and Tampa Bay's Blake Snell, who along with Cleveland's Corey Kluber are among Verlander's biggest competition, didn't reach 200 innings this year, something Verlander values.
"In my opinion, innings matter," Verlander said. "They matter tremendously. There's a lot of of numbers you can dig into to show one way or the other. It just depends on what voters want to look at. Obviously, Snell, Sale, Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, those guys had great seasons.
"I think the body of work speaks for something, third time through the lineup speaks for something. I've always valued 200 innings and grinding for it. It's not easy to get there in the landscape of the game today."
Astros manager AJ Hinch agreed.
"I believe in the innings, that they matter," he said. "It's a tough call. You're really talking about elite performers throughout the league, and I'm going to be biased towards my guy. The innings stretch is something significant, and something we still need to value as an industry."
Verlander reached double-digit strikeouts for the fourth start in a row -- the longest streak of his career -- and 13th time this season. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced -- two in the first inning, two in the second inning and three in the third inning. He didn't get a decision.
"He was very dominant, obviously," Hinch said. "It's not an easy game to pitch. He's trying to get his work in, but you do that with less of an approach than what he did, and you can get in trouble. I thought he was focused the entire day."
The homers by Springer and Correa in the sixth off Dylan Bundy put the Astros ahead, 3-0. Astros reliever Joe Smith gave up a three-run homer to DJ Stewart in the seventh inning that tied the game, but Correa scored Springer from first base with an RBI double in the ninth.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Astros are using the final weekend of the test to gauge the readiness of Correa for the playoffs. Correa came into the game hitting .172 (22-for-128) with one home run in 36 games since he missed six weeks with lower back soreness. He was shut down for a week before returning to the lineup Wednesday in Toronto. On Saturday, he hit his first homer since Aug. 24 and drove in the winning run with another opposite-field hit, a double.
"It was a good step forward," Hinch said. "The home run and the opposite-field double is a good sign of direction of his swing. It's a confidence-booster. Just watching him smile and decompress and relax a little bit after doing what we see him do all the time, just maybe not recently, it's a good step for him."
The win pushed the Astros to 44 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history.
HE SAID IT
"This is a vote that's going to change possibly the landscape of how Cy Young voting goes. I think if you're going to take a bigger look at guys like Sale and Snell, you have to take a harder look at some relievers. If you're going to minimize innings, go for the spectacular numbers and fewer innings, that brings in a whole other genre of guys who should be looked at for Cy Young" -- Verlander
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.