Defying the odds: Worst-in-majors Detroit Tigers beat Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, playoff shoo-in Houston Astros
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON — Justin Verlander was splendid against the Detroit Tigers, pitching a two-hitter and fanning 11 in another dominant performance for the Astros.
Houston’s offense wasn’t nearly as sharp on Wednesday night, and it led to an unusual, tough-luck 2-1 loss.
“Just an incredible performance,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Just not one that we could help him with.
“We wasted a really good start by our starting pitcher.”
John Hicks and Ronny Rodriguez homered off Verlander — the only two baserunners he allowed.
“The two times I gave in and gave them a fastball, they hit a homer on it,” said Verlander, who has been critical of Major League Baseball for what he believes are intentional changes to the ball that have led to more home runs.
“Baseball in 2019. I didn’t go out of the stretch at all the entire game, and we lost. I don’t know what else to say.”
With Verlander on the mound at home against the worst team in the majors, the Astros were more than a 5-1 favorite, one of the biggest favorites in an MLB game that Las Vegas oddsmakers could remember.
Hicks led off the ninth with a tiebreaking blast to left-center field off Verlander (15-5), who leads the majors in strikeouts with 239 but ranks second in homers allowed with 33.
Hicks has a long history with Verlander. His brother Daniel went to high school with him and was in his wedding to supermodel Kate Upton in 2017.
“It’s surreal for sure,” Hicks said.
“I remember being 10 years old watching him and my brother play in high school and watching him dominate.”
Verlander retired the first 14 batters, with six strikeouts, before Rodriguez homered to the seats in right with two outs in the fifth.
The veteran right-hander sat down another 10 straight before Hicks connected.
“That’s the biggest win for us in a long, long time, especially against a premium team like that, a World Series contender and Verlander on the mound,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.
“In Detroit we got him last year at the All-Star break and we got him again, but we really didn’t get him very much tonight.”