NEW YORK – There was no panic at the Astros as they left Yankee Stadium on Thursday night after what was arguably their toughest loss of the season. The sting of watching the Yankees score four times at the bottom of the ninth place was a painful win, but the Astros know the momentum is as good as the starting throw the next day.
Enter the right hand veteran Justin Verlander, who was up for the task before a selling crowd in the Bronx on Friday night. Verlander dominated the Yankees for seven rounds, allowing four hits and one run on Homer for Giancarlo Stanton, to send the Astros into 3-1 . win While clinching the Bombers’ 15-game home winning streak.
“Last night was a huge loss,” Verlander said. “Obviously, after a heavy loss, you want to be able to recover and be the goalkeeper and help the team win. I was happy to be able to do that tonight.”
Right defender Kyle Tucker gave the Astros all the attack they needed with Homer’s three-game sixth inning from Louis Severino. Houston improved to 3-1 in nine straight games against the Mets and Yankees.
“Our crew has done an amazing job all year, and we’re confident anyone out there up the hill,” Tucker said. “With JV on the hill he always expects the best from himself and we do that too. He gives us everything he can every time. We were so happy to have him there on the hill tonight.”
Verlander has improved to 9-3 this season, including 6-0 in the seven games he started right after the Astros lost. He kept the Yankees off the board until Homer Stanton finished sixth and allowed one to run with or without a gain for the ninth time this season.
“I saw last night, these guys never give up,” Verlander said. “They’ve had a lot of wins for a reason. It would be great if it was a blast, but two good teams will be in it, so these are the games you’d expect.”
Even with a great outing by Verlander, the Astros carry another white knuckle that ends with their short-handed pinch. Phil Matton hit Aaron Judge, Stanton and Josh Donaldson for eighth and stranded with a pair of runners, and Rafael Monteiro worked around a pair of walks in the ninth to retire DJ Limaheu to the final with Judge on the deck.
“You have to play all 27 teams, that’s one thing you have to do against them,” said Dusty Becker, Astros manager.
Whether it was adrenaline or something else, Verlander’s pace was high across the board, with all four of his pitches thrown much stronger than his season average. He threw 64 fast balls, averaging 95.5 mph (94.8 mph next season).
“It’s very welcome,” he said with a smile.
Verlander threw 41 throws in two rounds, but no more than 17 throws in any of the innings after that. The Yankees started to get more power early in the count, which helped Verlander make a few pitches for some quick defeats. He finished with 102 shots.
“He found rhythm because he had a lot of misses early on, which counted his tone in the first rounds,” Becker said. “They were getting closer and closer. You don’t know if that was their game plan or not, to make it work. But he found his rhythm and he was getting ahead all the time. It’s always big when you can go forward, especially when you have big hitters like them out there.”
Verlander improved to 13-8 with a 3.26 ERA in 31 career starts against the Yankees in the regular season and preseason, including 5-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 15 starts at Yankee Stadium. It was his first start against the Yankees since Game Five of the 2019 MLS Championship at Yankee Stadium.
The setting or the intimidating opponent wasn’t important to him on Friday night. The Astros simply needed to win the rebound, and score their ace.
“That’s what you wish,” Becker said. “That’s what horses do – I’ve said it every time a bet is made – they stop losing and create a winning streak, so hopefully this will create a winning streak for us.”
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