LOS ANGELES -- The towering home run Astros starter Justin Verlander allowed to Joc Pederson to begin Friday's game against the Dodgers certainly gave no indication of the complete domination that was to follow.Facing a Dodgers team that scored 21 runs a night earlier, Verlander struck out 14 batters --
LOS ANGELES -- The towering home run Astros starter Justin Verlander allowed to Joc Pederson to begin Friday's game against the Dodgers certainly gave no indication of the complete domination that was to follow.
Facing a Dodgers team that scored 21 runs a night earlier, Verlander struck out 14 batters -- tying a career high -- and allowed four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings to pick up career win No. 199 in the Astros' 2-1 victory in a rematch of last year's World Series.
"It was a well-pitched game, obviously, on both sides," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "But he was completely dominant, throwing the pitches he wanted to throw. He got out of a few situations in tough counts and finished strong. [Hector] Rondon came in and did his part. Really good game."
Verlander (11-6) surpassed the 200-strikeout mark for the eighth time in his career, leading the Astros to their third consecutive win and 70th of the season. He threw 105 pitches (76 strikes) and got 21 swings and misses, including 14 on his four-seam fastball. He pounded the strike zone early and expanded when he wanted.
"Today was an example of trusting the fastball to set up everything else," Verlander said. "I was going to make them make the adjustment before I did. … It's kind of one of those things you live and die with execution when you throw fastballs."
The Dodgers struck out 16 times in all and managed only three singles after Pederson's leadoff homer.
"We're going to see this Sunday [against Astros starter Gerrit Cole] and again tomorrow [against Lance McCullers]," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Guys with plus stuff, it's hard to run a count. They throw strikes. Seems if you're passive, you're going to be 0-1. You have to be aggressive."
The Astros, who had 30 hits in their previous two games, didn't manage much offense against Dodgers starter Alex Wood, who can be effectively wild at times.
With runners at first and second and two outs in the second, World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer lined an RBI double to left that scored Martin Maldonado from second. Jake Marisnick scored from first on the play when Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger misplayed the ball.
"To come back to the clubhouse where we left it is fun," Springer said. "There's a certain level of excitement. We have some good memories here, and it was a good day for us a team."
Verlander made the 2-1 lead stand up, striking out the side in the second inning and whiffing three more batters in the fourth. He was pulled after striking out Pederson -- he had fallen behind, 3-0 -- for the second out of the eighth, and Rondon got Manny Machado to fly out to end the inning and strand a runner at second. Rondon threw a 1-2-3 ninth.
"It's power on power with the game on the line," Hinch said of the Rondon-Machado matchup. "I'm sure that's what the fans came to see. Our fans were the happiest after the at-bat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Verlander fell behind Pederson with three straight balls to start the at-bat in the eighth with a runner at first base and Machado on deck. He rallied, though, getting Pederson to foul off a pair of pitches after the count was 3-0 before getting him to swing through a slider for a key strikeout.
"I'm not trying to walk him in that situation," Verlander said. "He put a great swing on it and it happened to be foul, and I executed a good fastball, 3-1, to get to two strikes and then threw a slider that looked a fastball for a long time, and I think with as many fastballs as I was throwing today he had respect the fact it could be a heater."
Verlander is 33-6 all-time in Interleague Play with a 2.76 ERA.
HE SAID IT
"It was a tight ballgame. I'm pacing up in here trying to watch the last three outs and remember what it was like in Game 2 [of the World Series] and the amount of pacing that went on. It brought back a lot of those feelings and reminds you that intensity is not repeatable in any other situation but the World Series." -- Verlander
McCullers Jr. (10-6, 4.06 ERA) will look to get back on track when he faces the Dodgers at 8:10 p.m. CT Saturday at Dodger Stadium, where he started Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. McCullers has lost his last three starts, going 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.48 ERA) will start for the Dodgers.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.