Verlander wins 15th MLB-leading game, Astros shut out Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched six scoreless innings for his 15th victory, MLB-leading Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado each homered and three RBIs, and the West Division-leading Houston Astros American League, defeated the Cleveland Guardians 6-0 on Thursday.

Verlander (15-3), returning from Tommy John surgery, extended his winning streak to seven starts and tied Herb Pennock for 55th all-time with 241 wins. He allowed two hits, both singles, and struck out five.

“It’s fun to be behind the plate for him,” Maldonado said. “Watching him prepare between games and watch him execute on the mound, that’s what future Hall of Famers do. I think he was born that way.”

In addition to leading the majors in wins, Verlander is first with a 1.73 ERA. The right-hander is 11-16 in his career at Progressive Field, where his 5.17 ERA is the highest of any ballpark in which he has pitched more than twice.

“Is it still after 5:00? Well, then I still have some demons to exorcise here,” Verlander joked. “These guys plagued me for a while. I’m not going to say it was something I focused on, but it was definitely on my mind.”

Verlander also activated his $25 million player option for 2023 by reaching 130 innings. The 39-year-old will earn the same amount this season under the new contract he signed last winter.

“He wanted a player option and I thought it was more of a fair question because they would risk paying an old man,” Verlander said. “Because if I didn’t throw 130, then I won’t win what I did this year anyway.

“Crossing that threshold puts me in a good place, but that’s not something I’m thinking about right now.”

Will Smith, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton completed the three-hit ball, helping Houston move within a game and a half of the inactive Yankees for the best mark in the American League.

McCormick gave the Astros a 2-0 lead with run-scoring singles in the third and fifth off Cleveland starter Zach Plesac (2-10). Maldonado added a two-run double in the fifth against Nick Sandlin to make it 4-0.

McCormick and Maldonado hit again in the seventh with solo homers, their 11th of the season, off Kirk McCarty. McCormick matched his career high with three hits on a night in which Houston left eight runners on base in the first three innings.

“I didn’t see them block a lot of balls, but there was a lot of traffic early on,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “And Verlander was as advertised.”

Cleveland entered the day one game behind AL Central leader Minnesota and one game out of the final wild-card spot. Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor and Austin Hedges all had hits in the loss.

Kwan tied Boston’s JD Martinez for the longest hitting streak in the American League this year at 18 games. It’s also the longest career by a rookie since Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes had 19 games in 2020-2021.

Plesac remained winless since June 5 at Baltimore, allowing four runs on seven hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-6 in his last 10 starts and has dropped all five of his decisions in night games.

“I’m being tested right now, it’s just a weird time,” Plesac said. “I’m never going to back down and get out of this bad luck problem or whatever. I can’t seem to catch a break.”

SIGH OF RELIEF

The Astros drafted three significant veterans at 1B Trey Mancini, C Christian Vazquez and LHP Will Smith before the MLB trade deadline earlier this week, allowing GM Dusty Baker to take a deep breath.

“It feels fun, actually, to end it,” Baker said. “We’re in the dog days of the season, but this year, it seems like the dog showed up a little earlier.”

Vázquez ranks third in the American League with 74 starts behind the plate, the first 73 with Boston.

“Going to a new team is a tough adjustment for receivers, which is where Vazquez is right now,” Baker said. a boy below. Is not easy.”

COACHES ROOM

Astros: OF Aledmys Diaz (left ring finger) was hurt in the eighth inning when he collided with center fielder Jake Meyers on a fly ball to left-center by Cleveland’s Austin Hedges. Díaz underwent medical tests after the match.

Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (sprained right wrist), who has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 14, will begin his rehab Friday for Triple-A Columbus against Rochester. Francona said Civale’s goal is to pitch four innings.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (9-4, 2.80 ERA) was victorious in all three career appearances against Cleveland, posting a 2.81 ERA in two starts and one relief outing.

Guardians: RHP Hunter Gaddis will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus for his major league debut. Gaddis is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA since his promotion from Double-A Akron.

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