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Sports: Vintage Verlander dominates as Astros stymie Mariners 4-0

Lockout experience fuels Astros' Baker's unorthodox approach

  Lockout experience fuels Astros' Baker's unorthodox approach WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston Astros players trust that manager Dusty Baker’s sometimes unorthodox approach to the lockout-shortened spring training has them better prepared for the rigors of the 2022 season. “He’s been through it a few times,” pitcher Justin Verlander said. “That’s wonderful insight, and maybe gives us a leg up because a lot of these other managers weren’t around when Dusty was and went through these processes. And he was playing through them, so he knows what it takes to get ready. I think guys have a lot of faith in his opinion on this.” No manager has more experience dealing with labor stoppages than Baker. He’s been around for all of them.

SEATTLE (AP) — Justin Verlander recaptured a little of what made him the best pitcher in the American League three years ago, and in the process added a bit of validation to the work needed while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

  Vintage Verlander dominates as Astros stymie Mariners 4-0 © Provided by The Canadian Press

Verlander pitched three-hit ball over eight innings for his first win since July 2020, and the Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0 on Saturday night.

A day after watching the Mariners pile up 11 runs against Houston pitching, Verlander (1-1) looked to be back in the form that earned him the 2019 AL Cy Young Award. He earned his first victory since beating Seattle on July 24, 2020, on opening day of the shortened 2020 season, before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

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“I wouldn’t have put in all the hard work if I didn’t think I could still pitch at a high level,” Verlander said. “But that being said, it is definitely gratifying to have that feeling again of going out there after a tough loss yesterday and being able to pick us up and (go) deep in the game, and do really what I expect to do most times out.”

Leaning mostly on his fastball and slider, Verlander finished eight innings for the first time since Sept. 1, 2019, when he no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays. The only hits he allowed to Seattle were a leadoff single by Adam Frazier in the first and Ty France’s singles in the fourth and sixth.

Verlander struck out eight with no walks on 87 pitches. The only other batter to reach base was J.P. Crawford, who was hit by a pitch in the seventh. Verlander was surprised to see his pitch count so low after seven innings, which gave him a chance to go back out for the eighth.

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But there was no lobbying for the ninth.

"He kind of emptied the tank on that eighth inning," Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Now, a month from now? He would probably want to finish that game out.”

Verlander pitched five strong innings in his season debut last week against the Angels, only to be outdueled by fellow Tommy John recoveree Noah Syndergaard.

“That’s about as dominant a performance as you’re going to see and for a guy that has been doing it in this league for a long, long time,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.

Martín Maldonado provided the big blow on offense with a two-run homer for his first hit of the season.

Maldonado was hitless in his first 15 at-bats before driving an 0-1 pitch from Chris Flexen out to left field for a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Jeremy Peña started the inning with a sharp single to cap an eight-pitch at-bat, and Maldonado didn’t miss on a poorly located fastball from Flexen.

Peña homers with parents watching, Astros thump Angels 13-6

  Peña homers with parents watching, Astros thump Angels 13-6 ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Jeremy Peña got something even more rare than his first major league home run Friday night. The Astros rookie got to see the looks on his parents' faces when he made that dream a reality. Peña connected for the first time while parents Gerónimo and Carmen Cecilia were being interviewed on the broadcast, a moment made for highlight reels while Houston thumped the Los Angeles Angels 13-6 Friday night. Justin Verlander told Peña about the interview when he got back to the dugout, and the 24-year-old got to watch it after the game. “It was pretty cool,” said Peña, who had the balls from his first hit and homer in his locker after the game.

“One really bad pitch that really cost us on that one,” Flexen said. “Battled, was efficient, but not the best.”

Peña tripled in the seventh and scored on Jose Altuve’s single off reliever Matt Festa.

Flexen (0-2) nearly matched zeros with Verlander until giving up the long ball. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out three. The Mariners have yet to score this season with Flexen on the mound.

MR. 3000

Verlander has now pitched 3,001 innings in his career. He said being able to accumulate innings in a season is still meaningful in his view.

“I’ve taken a lot of pride in taking the ball every five days, every five games and just being out there. So to reach that milestone, I think it’s just a testament to that,” Verlander said.

TRADE ALERT

Seattle acquired RHP Riley O’Brien from Cincinnati for a player to be named or cash. O'Brien went to high school in the Seattle suburb of Shoreline and made one start last season for the Reds.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: All-Star closer Ryan Pressly was placed on the 10-day injured list due to right knee inflammation. Pressly returned to Houston for additional examination. LHP Parker Mushinski was selected from Triple-A Sugar Land to take Pressly’s roster spot. ... DH Yordan Alvarez was back at the ballpark after being sick for several days with a non-COVID-19 illness. Alvarez took part in pregame work but a decision on returning to the roster won’t be made until Sunday.

Mariners: RF Mitch Haniger was placed on the COVID-19 IL before the game. Haniger reported symptoms and tested positive at the ballpark, Servais said. Seattle recalled INF Donovan Walton from Triple-A Tacoma to take Haniger’s roster spot.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP José Urquidy (1-0, 1.80 ERA) allowed four hits and one run over five innings in his first start against the Angels.

Mariners: RHP Matt Brash (0-1, 3.38) makes his second big league start. Brash threw 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs in his debut against the White Sox.

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Tim Booth, The Associated Press

Frazier, Gonzales lead M's past Astros 11-1 in home opener .
SEATTLE (AP) — Marco Gonzales took great pleasure in shutting down one of the teams that's provided him headaches in the past before a sold-out home crowd. Adam Frazier's first impression to those same fans was just as memorable. Gonzales rebounded from a rocky first start to throw seven solid innings, Frazier had four hits, including a two-run triple and two-run double, and the Mariners opened their home campaign with a 11-1 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

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