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Justin Verlander gets MLB-best 18th win as Astros down Seattle 2-1

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 7, 2019, 9:26 p.m.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to Seattle’s Mallex Smith during the first inning Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Houston. (David J. Phillip / AP)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to Seattle’s Mallex Smith during the first inning Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Houston. (David J. Phillip / AP)
By Kristie Rieken Associated Press

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros continued their dominance against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night behind another strong start by ace Justin Verlander.

Verlander pitched seven strong innings to get his MLB-leading 18th win in his first start since throwing his third no-hitter, leading the Astros to a 2-1 victory.

Verlander (18-5) allowed four hits with one run and fanned seven in his 30th start of the season. He leads the American League with a 2.52 earned-run average and his 264 strikeouts are second in the majors behind teammate Gerrit Cole.

After throwing a season-high 120 pitches against Toronto on Sunday to become the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw at least three no-hitters, Verlander dazzled again.

“He was in command of everything; I looked up and he was all over the strike zone with all of his pitches,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He was very dominant and held his stuff and made some really big pitches throughout the outing. He sets such a great tone every game, no-hitter or not, and hung in there while our offense squeaked out enough runs to win.”

Verlander didn’t feel any lingering effects from throwing so many pitches the last time out.

“I felt really good,” he said. “These guys gave me a lot of good at-bats, worked me pretty good, fouling off some good pitches late in counts and they did a good job. Ultimately, I was able to keep them off-balance enough, get enough weak contact and get some quick outs.”

Will Harris struck out one in a scoreless ninth for his second save.

With the game tied at 1, Josh Reddick drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. Alex Bregman tied it up with a solo home run in the sixth to help the Astros improve to 15-1 against the Mariners this season with their 10th straight win over their AL West foes.

Their 15 wins against the Mariners are tied for the most wins against one team in a season in franchise history. Houston also beat San Francisco 15 times in 1985.

Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi had retired 11 of the past 13 batters he’d faced when Bregman connected off of him on a shot to the seats in left field with no outs in the sixth, tying it at 1-all.

Rookie pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker doubled to start Houston’s seventh and reached third on a wild pitch by Austin Adams (1-2). Houston took the lead when Tucker scored on the sacrifice fly by Reddick for the first out of the inning.

After striking out 14 in his no-hitter on Sunday, Verlander retired the first six batters he faced before Shed Long singled to start the third. There was one out in the inning when Dee Gordon slapped a ball to the corner of right field for a triple, making it 1-0.

Verlander walked Omar Narvaez with one out in the fourth, but he was erased on a double play before Verlander struck out the side in the fifth. Gordon singled to start the sixth, but he was caught stealing with one out before Verlander retired Mallex Smith, ending the inning.

He allowed one hit in a scoreless seventh before Josh James came out for the eighth. The Mariners had runners at second and third with one out in that inning but James struck out Dylan Moore and Smith, ending the threat.

“There’s a reason he’s one of the best. He executes pitches and he can put them together,” M’s manager Scott Servais said of Verlander. “You know going into the game tonight you’re not going to score a ton of runs. You hope to win a low-scoring game, get a big hit late in the game. We didn’t do that. We had guys out there, just weren’t able to get the big hit late.”

Verlander has started at least 30 games in 13 seasons and he reached 200 innings for his 12th season with at least 200 innings.

Felix Hernandez (1-5, 6.02 ERA) is scheduled to start for Seattle when the series wraps up on Sunday. Hernandez allowed two hits and two runs in three innings of a 5-1 loss to the Cubs in his last start.

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