Roughed up in 3 2/3 IP, Verlander offers no excuses

June 19th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Justin Verlander wasn’t in the mood to make excuses, and who could blame him? The White Sox batted around for a total of eight hits in the third and fourth innings Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park to knock him out of the game after 3 2/3 innings in his second-shortest start in an Astros uniform. 

Verlander gave up nine hits -- seven singles -- and seven runs (four earned) in the 7-0 loss to the White Sox, who held the Astros to three singles one day after they gave up 13 runs, including five homers. Verlander was 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA in his previous 13 starts against the White Sox and breezed through the first two innings Saturday before things went awry.

“Look, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Verlander said. “They were hitting the ball hard and where people weren’t at, but they were finding the barrel. I’m not going to sit here and say they were squeaking in hits. They had a good approach and executed well."

A two-run single with the bases loaded by Luis Robert and a two-run double by José Abreu in the third gave the White Sox a 4-0 lead, and a costly two-out error by second baseman Jose Altuve in the fourth helped Chicago push three more runs across, capped by a two-run double by Robert. The White Sox also did a good job fighting off some inside fastballs and staying on some offspeed stuff against Verlander.

"I have such respect for him,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “We know you are going to have to stay on the ball because he’s a Hall of Famer to me, so I thought it was a very intelligent approach. And as come to expect of this club, we put yesterday behind us and got our fourth win on this road trip and go for the gusto tomorrow."

Verlander (8-3) endured his shortest start since throwing two innings on Aug. 9, 2018, against the Mariners. He threw 81 pitches on Saturday but got only eight swings and misses, including two on 27 fastballs thrown.

“I don’t know the crux of the issue yet,” Verlander said when asked about his fastball. “Could be just one of those days. I looked at my stuff afterwards, and it seemed to be normal, so I wouldn’t say that [the fastball] was the issue, no. Hitters at this level are really good, too, so this might just be a situation where you give credit where credit is due.”

The White Sox didn’t exactly destroy the ball against Verlander, though. Despite Robert’s 107.2 mph two-run single in the third, Verlander averaged a 92.6 mph exit velocity on the nine hits given up. In the third, Danny Mendick, Andrew Vaughn and Robert each rolled singles through holes on the right side of the infield, which was indicative of their approach to go the other way.  

“Most of those hits, first six out of seven of them, were to the opposite field,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They were killing that 3-4 hole over there, and they were all with two strikes. I don't know if that was their game plan or not, but they were certainly wearing that hole over there. The other hits were down the third-base line. They were mostly ground balls; there [were] a couple of line drives, but there were a lot of ground balls in there. He is throwing the ball good, but he couldn't put them away today." 

Verlander struck out only three batters, but that gave him 3,094 strikeouts for his career and allowed him to pass CC Sabathia and move into 16th place on the all-time strikeouts list. He’s also now struck out more batters than any other pitcher in this century (since 2000).