Major League Baseball

After taking down Cy Young, Verlander zeros in on M’s

ASTROS (42-21) AT MARINERS (26-39)

Justin Verlander has won the award named after Cy Young. Now, the Houston Astros’ ace has surpassed the legendary pitcher in one significant category.

When Verlander struck out Oakland’s Robbie Grossman in the seventh inning of his last start on Saturday, he passed Young and moved into 21st place on the all-time strikeout list. He now sits at 2,809, six more than Young.

Verlander will look to improve upon that total — and go after what would be an MLB-leading 10th victory of the season — Thursday afternoon against the host Seattle Mariners.

“Sometimes when you’re playing this game, it has the unique ability to really put things in perspective for you,” Verlander told recently. “As much as you try to keep your head down and keep pitching and not pay attention to whatever is going on, any time Cy Young pops up on your radar and you’re associated with him, it’s pretty special.”

Astros manager AJ Hinch and teammates recognized Verlander’s achievement with an impromptu postgame celebration Saturday.

“That was really nice,” Verlander said. “Pretty cool, man. From where I started to now, it’s been a long journey and hopefully I have a long way to go.”

An poll released Wednesday shows Verlander (9-2, 2.27 ERA) is the American League’s leading candidate for another Cy Young Award. Verlander won the award in 2011 with the Detroit Tigers and has finished second three times, including last season.

In addition to being tied for the major league lead in victories, the 36-year-old right-hander is first with a .733 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and has given up a league-best 4.6 hits per nine innings.

“He’s worked hard and he wants to be the best,” Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos told “He’s trying to do his best all the time he’s going out to pitch. It’s fun to be out there with him, competing and calling his game.”

Mariners left-hander Tommy Milone (1-1, 3.60) is scheduled to take on Verlander in the finale of the four-game series. Milone is 1-2 with a 5.74 ERA in nine career appearances against Houston, including seven starts.

Verlander is 13-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 26 career starts against the Mariners. He beat them 3-1 on April 13 in Seattle, allowing one run on two hits in six innings with 11 strikeouts.

The Mariners snapped Houston’s five-game winning streak, and ended their own four-game skid, with a 14-1 victory Wednesday.

The Mariners got a complete game from right-hander Mike Leake, their first of the season, and hit five home runs — by Domingo Santana, Tom Murphy, Edwin Encarnacion, Mac Williamson and Kyle Seager.

Williamson, designated for assignment last weekend by San Francisco, was signed to a minor league contract earlier in the day and then called up from Triple-A Tacoma when outfielder Braden Bishop went on the 10-day injured list with a lacerated spleen.

“Yay for us,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said with a laugh as he pumped his arms in the air in celebration at the start of his postgame news conference. “We’re finally on the good side of one of those games. We were due. We’ve certainly wore a few of those this year. It was really a nice win. Mike Leake threw the ball really, really well.”

–Field Level Media

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