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Verlander K's 12 Tigers but allows 4 homers

Right-hander goes 6 innings in first start vs. former club
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Justin Verlander's first start against his former team will be remembered more for the career-high-tying four homers he allowed on Sunday at Minute Maid Park than the flashes of brilliance he showed while striking out 12 batters.

Verlander, traded to the Astros last August after nearly 13 seasons with the Tigers, gave up homers to John Hicks in the second inning, Jeimer Candelario in the fifth inning and Niko Goodrum and Jim Adduci in the sixth in Houston's 6-3 loss. The right-hander lost his third consecutive decision.

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HOUSTON -- Justin Verlander's first start against his former team will be remembered more for the career-high-tying four homers he allowed on Sunday at Minute Maid Park than the flashes of brilliance he showed while striking out 12 batters.

Verlander, traded to the Astros last August after nearly 13 seasons with the Tigers, gave up homers to John Hicks in the second inning, Jeimer Candelario in the fifth inning and Niko Goodrum and Jim Adduci in the sixth in Houston's 6-3 loss. The right-hander lost his third consecutive decision.

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"You know, it was just an interesting day," said Verlander, who went 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in his final five starts starts prior to the break. "I had great stuff. It seemed like any time I made mistake they were on it in any capacity, and if I didn't, I struck them out. Like I said, one of the weirdest games of my career."

The Astros hit the All-Star break with a 64-35 record, winning 27 of their final 37 games to grow their lead in the American League West. On Sunday, they were held to four hits and managed a run on a double-play grounder, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel.

Video: DET@HOU: Gurriel's sacrifice fly brings home Bregman

"It was an off day for us," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I think that our at-bats were OK. Here and there, we put up pretty good at-bats. It was a quiet day and quiet days aren't our norm, but it kind of fell on the wrong day."

Verlander (9-5) lasted six innings, allowing six runs (five earned) -- his most runs allowed with Houston -- without issuing a walk. He struck out the side in the first and fourth innings but couldn't stay away from the long ball. It's the third time in his career he's allowed four homers in a game. The other two times were against Cleveland -- in 2016 and '17.

"I went back and looked at some of the pitches," Verlander said. "The one to Hicks wasn't as bad as I thought. It stayed a little up and it still got away from him and he was able to get the barrel to it. The one to Goodrum stayed up and that was an expected result. Aducci, decent pitch, just wanted to get something up in the zone."

Video: DET@HOU: Verlander K's Castellanos and the side

As far as facing his former club, Verlander said he woke up uncharacteristically early Sunday, but he said it was pretty much like any other start.

"Once you cross the white lines, it's business as usual," Verlander said. "It's not like they have the same lineup. There's a lot of different guys I didn't really know in there. Definitely weird."

The double-digit strikeout game was the 47th of Verlander's career, and with 12 strikeouts he moved past Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Warren Spahn and into 26th place on the all-time K's list with 2,588. On the list at No. 25 is another Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine with 2,607.

SOUND SMART
Verlander is the fifth pitcher in Major League history to strike out at least 12 batters in a game and allow at least four home runs, joining Colby Lewis (2012), Curt Schilling (1997), Art Mahaffey ('62) and Bill Werle ('50).

Video: DET@HOU: Verlander K's Jones to start the game

HE SAID IT
"I'm not going to let this leave a bitter taste in my mouth. You look at the big picture, not the result I wanted today, but I'm healthy and feel good and the stuff is there. The first half was about as good as I could have drawn it up." -- Verlander

Video: DET@HOU: Verlander fans Rodriguez for his 10th K

UP NEXT
Dallas Keuchel will get the first start for the Astros post-All-Star break when they start a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim at 9:07 p.m. CT on Friday. Keuchel is 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his last six starts.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Justin Verlander