HOUSTON (AP) – Justin Verlander was pretty good going with a no-hitter after six innings against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
“I like going deep into games in the regular season, but I’d rather do it in the postseason or at least be fresh and strong for it,” the Houston ace said.
Verlander recorded his major league-high 16th win and the Astros beat Minnesota on 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 on board. Verlander fanned 10 and lowered his MLB best ERA to 1.87 in his spectacular return after missing nearly two seasons following Tommy John surgery.
Manager Dusty Baker said Verlander was nearing the 90-game mark Tuesday as the Astros transitioned from a six-man to a five-man rotation. But he still asked Verlander if he wanted to continue after he hadn’t allowed a hit.
“After six innings of … 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 liked to throw 130-something. But not now and certainly 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 throw a three-hitter — in May, he lost a no-hitter to the Twins in the eighth inning at Target Field.
Ryne Stanek relieved to start the seventh and Correa led off with Minnesota’s first hit.
“I didn’t want to take any hits in the first game back, so I had to leave it 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 night at the plate after placing All-Star outfielder Byron Buxton on the injured list with a hip strain. By the end of their rally, the most noise Minnesota made came when manager Rocco Baldelli was ejected during a cartoon altercation.
Correa, making his first visit to Houston since leaving the Astros to sign with the Twins this offseason, received a standing ovation when he was honored during a pregame ceremony where he was presented with an AL Championship ring . The crowd reaction was also huge in his first at-bat in the first inning, and the star shortstop tipped his helmet to the fans before entering the box.
The reaction wasn’t as warm when he broke up the Astros’ combined no-hitter bid with a line drive to center that a diving Mauricio Dubón couldn’t cover. That was the lone hit for Correa, who was drafted first overall by the Astros in 2012 and spent his first seven seasons in Houston.
Jose Miranda hit an RBI single with one out of the Twins in the ninth. There were two outs when Max Kepler’s run-scoring single cut the lead to 4-2 and drove in Hector Neris. He was replaced by Abreu, who walked Gio Urshela to load the bases but walked 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 a 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 the night his Cuban family saw him play professionally for the first time. Father Agustín Eduardo Álvarez Salazar, mother Mailyn Cadogan Reyes and brother Yonder Alvarez Cadogan — each dressed in his jersey — looked wide-eyed at the field as they watched him walk to the plate.
“This is one of the greatest moments of my entire life,” his father told The Associated Press in Spanish through a translator. “And I could say so many words, but the truth is, there are no words to express what I feel right now.”
Alvarez was moved to learn how special it was for his parents to finally see him play after so long away from them.
“It means everything,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “Obviously, when I came to the United States it wasn’t easy. And when I got here, I got there on my own. I knew I had their support, but obviously they weren’t here either.”
Things got tough in the fifth when Twins starter Aaron Sanchez (0-1) pulled Jose Altuve in the left thigh. There was some jawing between Altuve and Sanchez and benches were cleared, but there was no 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 gesticulating wildly for a few more minutes before leaving the field.
Baldelli said he was upset because he believes he was charged for a mound visit when he went to try to calm Sanchez down and was not properly informed about it.
“At the very least I think it’s likely to be necessary for someone to come and let us know that a visit has been made,” he said. “It was. I disagreed and disagreed on many levels.”
Tichenor said Baldelli should have known he was being charged a visit.
“The mound visit means the manager goes to the top of the mound and talks to the pitcher, that’s a visit. Or a coach,” Tichenor said. “This is a visit.”
Sanchez, who started a combined no-hitter for the Astros in 2019 against Seattle, allowed 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 rehab assignment at Triple-A St. Paul Wednesday. He is set to be the team’s designated hitter on Wednesday before playing in the outfield on 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 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 met Correa before the game and his foundation along with several other charities worked together to find alternative accommodation for her family while they build them a new home.
The foundation began working to get Zamora a new home after learning the gunman, who wounded and killed 19 students and two teachers, lived a few blocks from her home where she was too upset to return after leaving the hospital.
Houston’s Framber Valdez (12-4, 2.72) faces Dylan Bundy (7-5, 4.60) when the series resumes Wednesday night.
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