Lynn on short end of Texas-sized duel

May 11th, 2019

HOUSTON – Astros pitcher Justin Verlander had a no-hitter in the fourth inning, but he was also in some trouble. With two outs, he walked Hunter Pence and hit Nomar Mazara with a pitch.

That brought up Rougned Odor for a pivotal at-bat on a night when Verlander otherwise dominated the Rangers on his way to a 3-0 victory Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

“We had a chance right there,” Woodward said. “That was the ballgame.”

Odor got ahead in the count, 3-1, and then swung and missed at a 95.9 mph fastball. Verlander came back with another fastball at 96.6 mph and Odor drove it to deep center, but not deep enough, and center fielder Jake Marisnick ran it down for the final out of the inning.

“It was close,” Woodward lamented afterward. “Just a tick … split-second late. I don’t know if it was swinging through the 3-1 pitch, kind of got him with two strikes. If he got that same [3-2] pitch on 3-1, he doesn’t miss it. But 3-2, he’s got to protect a little bit. Verlander is not afraid to throw a slider on that count. Got to make sure you see the ball.”

Woodward knew that the Rangers weren’t going to get many more chances when Verlander was on like he was Friday night. Rangers starter Lance Lynn kept it close, allowing only a home run to Marisnick leading off the third and back-to-back shots to Yuli Gurriel and Robinson Chirinos with two outs in the seventh.

But the Rangers managed just two singles, one by Asdrubal Cabrera leading off the fifth and another by Shin-Soo Choo leading off the ninth. Lynn wasn’t happy that the first two home runs came on 2-0 fastballs left in the middle of the plate.

“I did everything but three pitches and all three of those left the ballpark,” Lynn said. “I gave up too many runs. You have to match Verlander, especially when you saw early he was going good. So you knew you had to make pitches and try to keep them off the board. I was able to keep them down for the most part, until that last inning. You know going into games like that you’ve got to be ready to go. I was ready to go, he just got us tonight.”

The Rangers have faced Verlander three times this season. They scored four in four innings against him April 2 and came away with a 6-4 victory. But he has won the last two, allowing just one run on four hits over a combined 14 innings.

“You kind of have that feel it’s going to be one of those games,” Verlander said. “Lance 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.”

Verlander has performed well against Texas. He is now 15-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 28 career starts against the Rangers. That’s tied with Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter for the fifth-lowest ERA against the Rangers’ opponents by a pitcher with at least 150 innings pitched against the club. His .214 opponent’s batting average is the third lowest by an opponent with at least 150 innings pitched, trailing only Nolan Ryan (.203) and Mark Langston (.213).

“I thought we did a good job … he’s just really good,” Woodward said. “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.”