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Friday night flamethrower: Verlander K's 8 in win

Marisnick, Gurriel, Chirinos sock solo shots to provide fireworks, back ace
@brianmctaggart
May 11, 2019

HOUSTON -- Almost any time he pitches, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander claws his way up the career chart in some pitching category. The 36-year-old is very aware of his legacy and pays attention to the legends he’s passing, and one name made him stop in his tracks Friday night. Cy

HOUSTON -- Almost any time he pitches, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander claws his way up the career chart in some pitching category. The 36-year-old is very aware of his legacy and pays attention to the legends he’s passing, and one name made him stop in his tracks Friday night.

Cy Young.

Verlander passed Frank Tanana with 2,774 strikeouts to move into 22nd on the all-time strikeout list, leaving Cy Young (2,798, per MLB’s official stats) as his next target.

Verlander, winner of the 2011 American League Cy Young Award and a second-place finisher three times, held the Rangers to one hit while striking out eight batters in seven scoreless innings, leading the Astros to a 3-0 win Friday at Minute Maid Park.

Box score

Verlander (6-1) walked two and hit one batter while facing three batters over the minimum, lowering his ERA to 2.51 through nine starts.

“He was really good and really good from the very beginning,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

“Whenever that names pops into what you’re doing, your ears kind of perk up a little bit,” Verlander said. “That’s pretty cool.”

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The only hit Verlander allowed was a fifth-inning single by Asdrubal Cabrera. He was still feeling strong after throwing 101 pitches, but Hinch was more than willing to hand the ball to lock-down relievers Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna to close out a two-hit shutout.

“You kind of have feel that it’s going to be one of those games,” Verlander said. “Lance [Lynn] was throwing the ball well and thankfully our boys were able to get to him in the [seventh]. It’s hard to pitch against [the Astros’] lineup three or four times through ... They finally got to him and gave us a little breathing room, and Press and Osuna ... I can’t say enough about what those guys did.”

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The Rangers’ lineup made Verlander throw 23 pitches in the first inning and 29 in the fourth inning, but he finished efficiently.

“He just did a really good job of getting through the seventh inning,” Hinch said. “No room for error until the end, until we hit a couple of homers after he was already coming out of the game, but a big night for him. He had command of his pitches. He had some stuff left in the tank, too. Really encouraged he was so in control and so dominant.”

Behind Verlander, the Astros’ 7-8-9 hitters each hit a solo homer. Jake Marisnick homered off Lynn in the third, and Yuli Gurriel and Robinson Chirinos went back-to-back in the seventh off Lynn. Houston has slugged 21 homers in its past eight games (6-2).

“He’s just really good,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of Verlander. “I don’t want to give him too much credit, but he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He’s got a lot of weapons. He was up for the challenge. He’s good, he’s a competitor. He’s got a ton of weapons he can use and he’s not afraid to use them. He doesn’t give in. He has a plan for all our hitters and he’ll make adjustments off that. Smart player.”

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