Verlander helps Astros roll to doubleheader sweep of Orioles
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Houston Astros will head into the playoffs coming off the best regular season in franchise history and with an ageless right-hander who’s gunning for his second AL Cy Young Award.
Justin Verlander struck out 10 in the opener of a doubleheader, and the Astros beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 on Saturday before completing a sweep with a 5-2 victory.
The twin wins gave Houston a franchise-record 103 for the season, surpassing the record set by the 1998 club.
“We took a moment, because it’s a great accomplishment and we should be proud,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “The most wins in franchise history is a big deal.”
Verlander allowed three hits and a walk in six shutout innings in the opener, showing he’s ready for the playoffs.
Whether Verlander receives another Cy Young Award to go with the one he earned in 2011 with Detroit, well, that’s not nearly so clear.
He finished his 14th big league season with a 16-9 record and a 2.52 ERA. He had an AL-leading, career-high 290 strikeouts (and only 37 walks) in 214 innings, second-most in the league behind Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.
“I think he’s the Cy Young,” Hinch said of Verlander. “I believe in the innings, that they matter, and where he ranks in all the categories. It’s a tough call. I’m going to be biased toward my guy.”
Asked to assess his chances, Verlander said: “I feel like the body of work speaks for itself. It’s going to be an interesting case. In my opinion, innings matter.”
Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell is 21-5 with a 1.91 ERA over 179 innings.
“I’ve always valued 200 innings, and grinding for it. It’s not easy to get there,” Verlander said. “I’m definitely interested to see how this voting is going to go. I have no idea, honestly.”
Verlander launched the dominant outing with seven strikeouts over three perfect innings. He left after throwing 99 pitches.
“He’s 35 years old. It’s remarkable to watch him pitch, even though he’s beating you,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He would have kept pitching I’m sure five or six days from now.”
Verlander’s next outing will come in the postseason, which begins for Houston on Friday against Cleveland.
Orioles starter Dylan Bundy matched zeroes with Verlander until the sixth. Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk, George Springer hit his 22nd home run and Carlos Correa sent Bundy’s next offering over the right-field wall.
DJ Stewart tied it with a three-run homer off Joe Smith in the seventh, costing Verlander the victory.
In the ninth, Springer drew a two-out walk from Sean Gilmartin (1-1) and Correa broke the tie with an RBI double.
Will Harris (5-3) worked the eighth and Hector Rondon got three outs for his 15th save.
In the nightcap, Myles Straw hit his first big league homer and Brian McCann also went deep against rookie Yefry Ramirez (1-8).
Jake Marisnick made it 5-2 with a two-run shot in the eighth.
Dallas Keuchel started and went three innings in his final tuneup for the playoffs. Brad Peacock (3-4) worked the fourth and Ryan Pressly pitched the ninth for his second save.
Baltimore enters Sunday’s finale as one of only five big league teams since 1900 to lose 115 games.
Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.18 ERA) will start on Sunday in the season finale. How far he goes is up in the air, given that he hasn’t pitched in a week.
“I could see it going anywhere from one inning, two innings, maybe even three innings,” Hinch said. “I need to be convinced that he feels like he’s clear from the soreness to where we’re not risking a ton.”
Morton left with shoulder discomfort after pitching only one inning against the Angels last Sunday. Then, on Thursday, his wife gave birth to a girl.
Orioles outfielder Adam Jones is receiving an unofficial, tentative farewell from the fans at Camden Yards this weekend.
His contract expires after the season, and he is 33 years old on a team rebuilding with youth. Even if the Orioles ask him back, would he say yes?
“I’m not the one making business decisions on their regard,” he said before the game. “All I can do is make a business decision on my behalf.”
Astros: With a victory on Sunday, Houston will complete a sensational September with a major league-best 22-5 record.
Orioles: Jimmy Yacabonis (0-2, 6.00 ERA) will start the final game.