With two former Cy Young Award winners taking the mound at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night, a pitching duel could have reasonably been expected between the Rangers and Astros. But in this case, two veteran right-handers were dueling, one of whom is 9 years older than the other.
Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander combined to accomplish something on Sunday that hadn't been done since 1982, the year before Verlander was born. Colon was on a path toward history, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning before a Carlos Correa walk ended the perfect game bid, and a Josh Reddick double broke up the no-hitter. Colon would have become the oldest pitcher to throw either a perfect game or no-hitter in MLB history. While the Rangers would go on to win the game, 3-1, in 10 innings, this contest will be remembered most for the epic performances of the two starting pitchers, who combined to give up two runs on two hits over 15 innings.
Here are 10 facts to know about this amazing pitching duel:
• This was just the sixth game since at least 1908 in which both starting pitchers logged at least 7 2/3 innings without allowing more than one hit. The last time it happened was on Oct. 1, 1982, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, where the Mets' Terry Leach locked horns with the Phillies' John Denny. Leach gave up one hit over 10 shutout innings for the victory (though he walked six), while Denny gave up one hit in nine scoreless frames and wound up with a no-decision.
The list also includes Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs on Sept. 9, 1965, at Dodger Stadium, where Chicago's Bob Hendley took a tough-luck loss by allowing one unearned run on one hit in an eight-inning complete game.
• Colon (44 years, 326 days) took a serious run at becoming the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game, or even a no-hitter. Randy Johnson is the oldest man to twirl a perfecto, as he was 40 years and 251 days old on May 18, 2004, when he pulled off the feat for the D-backs against the Braves.
Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Rangers when he threw his record seventh and final no-hitter against the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991. Ryan was 44 years and 90 days old at the time -- or 236 days younger than Colon was on Sunday. Ryan went on to pitch until age 46, throwing his final pitch in September 1993. That was three months after Colon signed as an amateur free agent with the Indians out of the Dominican Republic. In other words, Ryan and Colon have combined to be professional ballplayers all the way back to when Ryan was drafted by the Mets in 1965 (although Colon missed a year in 2010).
• While his age pales in comparison to Colon's, Verlander is no spring chicken himself (in baseball terms), having turned 35 on Feb. 20. That made this matchup the first time in recorded history that two starting pitchers age 35 or older both allowed no more than one hit in a game, regardless of innings pitched. There hadn't even been a game in which two age 35-plus starters allowed two hits or fewer and recorded at least one out by the seventh inning in more than 30 years. On Sept. 27, 1986, the Rangers' Charlie Hough (38) tossed a two-hit shutout to outduel Hall of Famer Don Sutton (41), who gave up two hits and a run in 7 1/3 innings for the Angels.
• Including the postseason, Verlander now has pitched in 15 games for the Astros, including 14 starts. The former longtime Tiger has been nothing short of sensational. Over 97 1/3 innings, Verlander has posted a 1.57 ERA, a 115-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .163 opponents batting average.
• Verlander became the first Astros pitcher since 1986 -- when Ryan did it twice and Mike Scott once -- to strike out at least 11 batters while giving up no more than one hit. However, Verlander is the first pitcher in franchise history to deliver that combination while also issuing no more than one walk.
• Colon became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to complete 7 2/3 innings in a game while giving up one hit or fewer. Ryan held the previous record with his no-hitter against the Blue Jays.
• Prior to Sunday night, Colon had thrown seven or more innings and allowed one hit three times in his 21-season career. The last came on April 16, 2017, when he gave up a solo home run to the Padres' Ryan Schimpf over seven innings for the Braves. The other two instances were on July 27, 2004, for the Angels against the Rangers (one hit over seven innings), and Sept. 18, 2000, for the Indians against the Yankees, when Colon took a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings before yielding a single to Luis Polonia. That ended up being a complete-game shutout for Colon.
• With his seven stellar innings against the Astros on Sunday, Colon lowered his season ERA to 1.45 (three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings) with 17 strikeouts and two walks in four appearances (two starts) for the Rangers, who signed him to a Minor League deal on March 26.
• According to Statcast™, only three batted balls (out of 17 total) against Colon on Sunday had a hit probability of 50 percent or greater -- a fourth-inning George Springer groundout (50 percent), a seventh-inning Jose Altuve lineout (52 percent) and Reddick's eighth-inning double (84 percent). Verlander also only had three batted balls of 50 percent or greater hit probability against him on Sunday (out of 12 total) -- an Adrian Beltre flyout in the second inning (86 percent), a Joey Gallo groundout in the second (57 percent) and Robinson Chirinos' third-inning homer (63 percent).
• Colon stands out not only for his age but for his repertoire. He followed his usual plan of attack on Sunday, throwing 83 fastballs (two-seamers and four-seamers) out of 96 total pitches, while mixing in a handful of changeups and sliders. That's a fastball usage rate of 86.5 percent, or slightly above his MLB-high mark of 82.9 percent since the beginning of 2017. As is always the case, Colon's barrage of heaters didn't come with high velocity. His two-seamer, which he threw 67 times, topped out at 90.4 mph, averaged 88.4 mph and came in as low as 84.6 mph.