Verlander earns 12th MLB lead win as Astros beat A’s 5-0

HOUSTON (AP) — After claiming his 12th MLB lead on Saturday, Justin Verlander wasn’t ready to reflect on how far he’s come this season.

But the 39-year-old took a moment to note how his nearly two-year absence from the game after Tommy John surgery has made him appreciate his success a little more.

“I’ve said the word perspective a lot here, and I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I think in the past I took a lot of things for granted, my health and some success when I was young, certainly not since I got into astro. But I think age and going through certain things has a way of helping you grow and realize real positives that you might not have taken a moment to realize before.

Verlander struck out 10 in six innings and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 5-0.

Martín Maldonado hit a second-inning Grand Slam as the AL West-leading Astros rebounded from a 5-1 loss in the series opener on Friday night. The A’s actually beat Houston 7-6, but didn’t have much to show for it.

Verlander (12-3) allowed six scoreless hits on walks and lowered his ERA to 1.89, which ranks him third in the majors. Phil Maton, Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu each pitched a scoreless inning to complete the shutout against the team with the AL’s worst record.

Verlander, who leads all active players in strikeouts, now has 3,121 in his career, moving him past Curt Schilling (3,116) and Bob Gibson (3,117) to 14th on the all-time list. .

He was selected for his ninth All-Star Game and will attend next week’s festivities in Los Angeles, but will not pitch in Tuesday’s game after throwing 106 pitches on Saturday.

“He’s got this inner drive that you can’t really teach someone, especially with a guy who’s had the success he’s had,” manager Dusty Baker said. “A lot of people would have just called him out, but this guy, he loves throwing and he loves competing. We’re glad he invested the time and effort and glad we got him back.

Receiver Maldonado added, “This guy, I feel like he’s 25.”

Verlander laughed when told of Maldonado’s assessment of him.

“I appreciate it,” he said. “There is a lot of hard work trying to fight the good fight and the rage against the death of light for as long as possible. And I will continue to do so for as long as I can.

Five of the six hits allowed by Verlander were singles and the only time the Athletics got more than one hit in an inning came when Dermis Garcia and Nick Allen hit back-to-back singles to start the fifth. But Vimael Machín got into a double play before Verlander removed Ramón Laureano to end the threat.

“It’s classic Justin,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “Life on the fastball and he threw a lot of broken balls today.”

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve was in the designated hitter lineup after missing Friday’s game in pain after being hit by a pitch in his left knee on Thursday. Altuve said he was still in pain Saturday and will not play in the All-Star Game due to his injury.

There were two outs in the second when Yuli Gurriel and Jake Meyers hit back-to-back singles before Chas McCormick walked to charge the bases.

Maldonado then connected rookie Jared Koenig (1-3) for his third career Grand Slam on a shot to the center of the field to make it 4-0.

Aledmys Díaz walked to start Houston’s fourth and Gurriel singled, setting up an RBI single by McCormick.

Koenig had a career-high six hits and five runs in seven innings for his third loss in five starts this season.

“The second run kind of blew up, but after that he calmed down,” Kotsay said. “Just a bad run.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr., who has been out all season with a pulled right forearm, said he felt good after throwing about 40 pitches in a two-inning mock game on Saturday . The team has not determined his next step, but he may soon begin a rehabilitation mission. “It’s like the end of my rehab,” he said. “It’s that end point, the end of the tunnel where we feel like we hoped to be at that point in the schedule. It’s a good thing. As for my next step, I have to wait and talk to the staff training and the Astros.

NEXT

Houston’s Jake Odorizzi (4-2, 3.38) is set to start the series finale on Sunday. The Athletics has yet to name a starter.

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