Verlander recovers from 1st-pitch HR, Astros top Rangers 7-3
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Justin Verlander tried to shake off Shin-Soo Choo's homer on the Houston ace's first pitch of the game as a "one pitch, one run" no big deal.
The Astros kept it from mattering too much.
Verlander struck out nine in seven innings after the early shock, and George Springer had a two-run double in a four-run second inning that put the Astros in front for good on their way to a 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
"It's not the first time it's happened to me. Won't be the last I'm sure," Verlander said. "It's just kind of one of those things where it's one pitch, one run, that's not going to hopefully change the ballgame. All right, reset and go with your game plan and get the next guy out."
For Verlander, the stress came a little later on a couple of bunt singles, including one from Joey Gallo in the sixth. The Astros have played unusual shifts against the lefty slugger all season, including a four-man outfield and Friday's version with all four infielders on the right side.
Gallo's bunt to an empty left side of the infield brought up the tying run with one out and Houston leading 5-3. It also drew a huge ovation from the crowd after season-long urging from old-school baseball fans for Gallo to do exactly what he did.
With two runners on, Verlander ended the sixth by getting a flyout on his 110th pitch with the temperature still at 90.
"I felt like he's such a good pitcher that I have to try something to maybe get a rally going," Gallo said. "The situation dictates. If you're down 10 runs, you're not going to bunt."
Jose Altuve's two-run homer off reliever Matt Bush gave the Astros their biggest lead in the seventh.
Alex Bregman connected on a solo shot in the fifth against Texas starter Doug Fister, who left the game with right knee soreness.
Verlander (8-2) gave up three earned runs after allowing just two in his first 40 2/3 innings on the road this season. He bounced back from Choo's 11th homer with five straight strikeouts. Adrian Beltre fanned three times against Verlander in his first four-strikeout game since 2012.
It was the third time in 24 starts for Houston, including the playoffs, that Verlander has allowed three earned runs. And that's the most the 2012 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has given up since joining the Astros for the final month on the way to their first World Series title last year.
Nomar Mazara had a two-run double in the third as Verlander's major league-leading ERA rose to 1.45.
"It's high standards with Justin," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He wants to be perfect. I'm not nitpicking. I think he was great. I always think he's great."
Marwin Gonzalez had a tying RBI double in the second before the speedy Tony Kemp's infield single put the Astros in front for good. Springer followed with a liner into the corner in left field.
Choo, who extended his majors-leading streak of reaching base to 24 games, also had a walk and a bunt single.
FISTER'S SKID AND INJURY
Fister (1-7) allowed six hits and five runs in five innings, remaining winless in 10 starts since beating the Astros in his Texas debut on the second day of the season. He limped off after throwing a strike to Yuli Gurriel on the first pitch of the sixth and was to be re-evaluated Saturday. "I'll wait until I find out what it is," said Fister, who was on the disabled list in April with a right hip strain.
CORREA SITS AGAIN
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa missed his second straight game since coming out after seven innings against Seattle on Wednesday because of soreness on his right side. Correa said an MRI didn't show anything abnormal, but Hinch said the club won't rush it. The Astros have a day off after this four-game series.
Astros: C Brian McCann was activated from the disabled list after missing nine games with right knee soreness, snapping a 1-for-29 slide with a single in the ninth inning.
Rangers: SS Elvis Andrus took light batting practice. He's been on the disabled list since April 13 after breaking his right elbow when he was hit by a pitch. Andrus is eligible to come off the 60-day DL Monday.
Houston RHP Charlie Morton (7-1, 2.84 ERA) is coming off his first loss in his worst start of the season — nine hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 9-3 loss to Boston. Texas LHP Mike Minor (4-4, 5.76) is facing the Astros for the third time this season. He was 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in the first two.