Verlander, Springer break droughts vs. Angels

Right-hander fans 11 in 1st win since June 14; slugger cracks grand slam

July 22nd, 2018

ANAHEIM -- found the winner's column. found his groove.

Verlander picked up his first win in more than a month by striking out 11 batters in six innings, and Springer cranked his first grand slam of the season to lead the Astros to a 7-0 win over the Angels on Saturday at Angel Stadium.

"We play this game for wins, man," Verlander said. "You can say all you want that you did your job or you kept your team in the game and yada, yada, but it's always nice to get the win."

The Astros were hoping Springer's All-Star Game homer Tuesday would ignite him in the second half. The World Series Most Valuable Player was hitting .150 with one homer and six RBIs in his 120 at-bats prior to Saturday, not including the Midsummer Classic. His sixth-inning slam made it 7-0.

"That's obviously a spot where you're trying to get the guy in from third, and I was happy to contribute and happy to get the job done," Springer said.

Verlander (10-5), winless in his previous six starts, picked up his first victory -- the 198th of his career -- since June 14. He reached double-digit strikeouts for the 48th time in his career, sixth time this season. It was the Astros' 10th shutout of the season.

"I think he was great, and I think this was one of the better fastballs that he's had, and for good reason," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He came out and executed his pitches, throwing 16, 17, 18 [fastballs] in a row to get out of trouble and into the [fourth] inning. Then he had a huge long layoff and came out in the sixth and got his outs, and we got him out of the game."

Verlander, who improved to 5-0 with a 0.49 ERA against the Angels since being traded to Houston last August, got key strikeouts of and to end the fourth and strand runners at second and third.

"He's even tougher when guys get in scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got that second gear that he brought out today against Kins and then Luis Valbuena when we had second and third. He got two strikeouts that were big at that point in the game, obviously, with us trying to get back into it. "

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homered in the sixth to give the Astros a 3-0 lead, and followed with a single ahead of walks to and to load the bases. Reliever struck out before Springer crushed a 3-2 curveball and sailed it 400 feet over the left-center-field wall for his fifth career grand slam.

"He's run into a little bit of bad luck, he's run into a little bit of bad pitch selection," Hinch said. "When he does zone it in and focus on the right things, he's as dynamic as anybody in the league. It's nice to have him have some positive results."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Verlander threw 21 fastballs in a 22-pitch fourth inning, including 14 in a row to end the inning. He blew away on three pitches to start the inning, but a single and double put runners at second and third with two outs. Verlander came back with nothing but heat to strike out Kinsler and Valbuena swinging.

"Probably the best it's been all year," said Verlander, who threw 67 fastballs among his 92 pitches. "I was able to locate It pretty well. I was able to locate it at the top of the zone when I needed to go there, and the results were there with it. When I kind of got backed up in the corner there, I was just going to it."

SOUND SMART

All five of Springer's career grand slams have come on the road. That's a club record for most road grand slams, passing Jeff Bagwell.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Verlander's 72.8 percent four-seam fastball usage Saturday was his highest in any game since Sept. 24, 2009, against the Indians (73 percent), according to Statcast™. He'd pitched 293 games, including 18 postseason games, since that start. His previous high for four-seam usage with the Astros was in his previous start (70.3 percent).

HE SAID IT

"He's a dog, man. He fights. He doesn't quit. And he came at them and it's awesome to play behind him, it's awesome to see the fight in his eyes. He threw some really, really good heaters today." -- Springer, on Verlander

UP NEXT

(10-4, 3.77 ERA) will start Sunday's series finale for the Astros against the Angels at 3:07 p.m. CT at Angel Stadium. McCullers has already set a career high for victories, winning 10 of his 19 starts, including a seven-game stretch between May 31 and July 6 in which he was 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA. Lefty (5-6, 3.78 ERA) will start for the Angels.