HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander was totally fine leaving with a no-hitter intact after six innings against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
“I like to go deep in games in the regular season, but I’d rather do it in the postseason or at least be fresh and strong for that,” the Houston ace said.
Verlander posted his major league-leading 16th win and the Astros beat the Minnesota Tuesday night in Carlos Correa’s return to Houston.
Verlander (16-3) allowed just one runner to reach base — Nick Gordon struck out in the second inning on a wild pitch to get aboard. Verlander fanned 10 and lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.87 in his spectacular return after missing almost two seasons after Tommy John surgery.
Manager Dusty Baker said Verlander was on a pitch limit of 90 Tuesday as the Astros transition from a six to five-man rotation. But he still asked Verlander if he wanted to keep going since he hadn’t allowed a hit.
“After six innings at … 91 pitches, you know it’s not going to be one of those nights,” Verlander said. “Maybe 15 years ago, 10 years ago when I loved throwing 130-something. But not now and specifically not after Tommy John in my first season back.”
The 39-year-old Verlander was pulled after 91 pitches. He is the only active player to have thrown three no-hitters — in May, he lost a no-hit try against the Twins in the eighth inning at Target Field.
Ryne Stanek relieved to begin the seventh and Correa led off with Minnesota’s first hit.
“I didn’t want to get no-hit on the first game back, so I had to drop that one in there,” Correa said.
Alex Bregman’s homer helped the AL West-leading Astros build a 4-0 lead. The Twins scored twice in the ninth and had the bases loaded before Bryan Abreu struck out Jake Cave to end it.
The Twins lost their fourth straight in a night of struggles at the plate that came after they placed All-Star outfielder Byron Buxton on the injured list with a hip strain. Until their late rally, the most noise Minnesota made came when manager Rocco Baldelli was ejected during an animated argument.
Correa, making his first visit to Houston after leaving the Astros to sign with the Twins this offseason, received a huge ovation when honored during a pregame ceremony where he was presented with his AL Championship ring. The crowd reaction was also huge in his first at-bat in the first inning and the star shortstop tipped his batting helmet to the adoring fans before stepping in the box.
The reaction wasn’t nearly as warm when he broke up the Astros’ combined no-hit bid with a liner to center field that a diving Mauricio Dubón couldn’t corral. That was the only hit for Correa, who was selected first overall by the Astros in 2012 and spent his first seven seasons in Houston.
Jose Miranda hit an RBI single with one out in the Twins ninth. There were two outs when Max Kepler’s run-scoring single cut the lead to 4-2 and chased Hector Neris. He was replaced by Abreu, who walked Gio Urshela to load the bases but fanned Cave for his second save.
Dubón gave Houston the lead with an RBI single in the second inning and Trey Mancini made it 2-0 with his run-scoring double in the fourth. Bregman’s 18th homer this season was a two-run shot in the seventh.
Yordan Alvarez added a single for the Astros on a night his family from Cuba got to see him play professionally for the first time. Father Agustín Eduardo Álvarez Salazar, mother Mailyn Cadogan Reyes and brother Yonder Alvarez Cadogan — each decked out in his jersey — gazed wide-eyed at the field as they watched him step to the plate.
“This is one of my biggest moments in my entire life,” his father told The Associated Press in Spanish through a translator. “And I could be able to say so many words, but the truth is that there are no words to express what I’m feeling right now.”
Alvarez was moved to know how special it was for his parents to finally see him play after being away from them for so long.
“It means everything,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “Obviously, when I came into the United States it was not easy. And when I arrived here, I arrived by myself. I knew I had their support, but obviously they weren’t here.”
Things got testy in the fifth when Twins starter Aaron Sanchez (0-1) plunked Jose Altuve on the left thigh. There was some jawing between Altuve and Sanchez and benches cleared, but there wasn’t any pushing or shoving.
Order was soon restored, but after Yuli Gurriel walked on four pitches, Baldelli came out of the dugout yelling at the umpires. He was soon ejected by first base umpire Todd Tichenor, but that didn’t stop him from screaming and gesturing wildly for a couple more minutes before leaving the field.
Baldelli said he was upset because believes he was charged with a visit to the mound when he went to try and calm down Sanchez and wasn’t properly informed of it.
“At the bare minimum I think there’s probably it’s necessary for someone to come over and let us know that a visit was given,” he said. “So that’s it. I disagreed and I disagreed on multiple levels.”
Tichenor said Baldelli should have known that he had been charged with a visit.
“The mound visit constitutes the manager going on top of the mound and talking to the pitcher, that’s a visit. Or a coach,” Tichenor said. “That’s a visit.”
Sanchez, who was the starter in a combined no-hitter for the Astros in 2019 against Seattle, yielded six hits and two runs in four-plus innings after being called up from Triple-A Tuesday.
Twins: OF Kyle Garlick (bruised rib cage) is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A St. Paul Wednesday. He is set to be the team’s designated hitter Wednesday before playing in the outfield Thursday.
Verlander’s big night moved him past Pedro Martinez (3,154) and Max Scherzer (3,157) and into 13th place on the all-time strikeout list with 3,161.
Mayah Zamora, who spent 66 days in the hospital as a victim of the Uvalde elementary school shooting, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Zamora got to meet Correa before the game, and his foundation along with several other charities worked together to find alternative lodging for her family while they build them a new home.
The foundation began work to get Zamora a new home after she learned that the shooter, who wounded her and killed 19 students and two teachers, lived just blocks from her home where she was too upset to return to after leaving the hospital.
Houston’s Framber Valdez (12-4, 2.72) opposes Dylan Bundy (7-5, 4.60) when the series continues Wednesday night.
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