Major League Baseball

Verlander aims to keep Astros on track vs. White Sox

WHITE SOX (21-25) AT ASTROS (32-16)

Astros right-hander Brad Peacock provided Houston a strong pitching performance Monday that, in a vacuum, was more than sufficient for the opener of an extended four-game series.

From a macro perspective, Peacock set the Astros on the path to winning the series by twirling five shutout innings in a 3-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

With ace right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole scheduled to start the next two games at Minute Maid Park, Houston earned a distinct advantage by claiming the first contest, particularly with the White Sox utilizing the “opener” strategy on Monday and working through five members of their bullpen.

Houston employed four relievers Monday, each throwing one scoreless inning after Peacock tossed five shutout frames. None of the Astros relievers threw more than 19 pitches.

“The task for them is mentally,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of the White Sox. “When you win the first game of the series (and) we got to see half of their bullpen, they know what’s at stake. They’re facing Verlander tomorrow, Cole the next day, they’ve never seen (rookie right-hander Corbin) Martin (the scheduled starter for the finale Thursday) before, so the rest of the series sets up well.

“For us, we have a ton of confidence no matter who we put out there. We like winning the day before JV pitches, the day after he pitches, the day he pitches. And we’ve been doing that a lot.”

Verlander (7-1, 2.38 ERA) has surrendered more than one run only once over his past seven starts, compiling a 6-1 record and 1.71 ERA during that stretch with 58 strikeouts over 47 1/3 innings.

Verlander is 21-13 with a 3.71 ERA over 44 career starts against the White Sox, including a 1-0 mark and 1.38 ERA over two starts last season, when he fanned 15 in 13 innings.

Right-hander Dylan Covey (0-2, 4.41 ERA) will oppose Verlander for the White Sox in what will be his sixth appearance and fourth start on the season. He did not factor into the decision in his latest start, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks with one strikeout over 5 2/3 innings in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Covey was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on April 29 after posting a 2.51 ERA over five appearances (three starts) with the Knights. Tuesday will mark his first career appearance against the Astros.

While the White Sox went deep into the bullpen Monday, they effectively managed the pitch counts of their relievers. Right-hander Juan Minaya logged the most pitches for Chicago, tossing 29 while working the final two innings. Right-hander Ryan Burr, who served as the opener, threw 28 pitches, while right-hander Jose Ruiz logged 22. Lefties Jace Fry and Josh Osich combined for 25 pitches.

“They did a nice job of allowing us an opportunity to, for the most part, have them all available still as we move forward,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Three runs. A starter gives you six innings and (gives up) three runs, it’s a quality start. So today our bullpen gave us nine innings of three-run ball. It’s a quality start for the bullpen.”

–Field Level Media

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