Major League Baseball

Verlander, Astros strive for sweep over Seattle

MLB7MARINERS (47-66) AT ASTROS (72-40)

Justin Verlander, the Houston Astros ace who joined the team in a midseason trade from the Detroit Tigers (+1.5) in 2017, is the model for the type of impact the Astros seem to specialize in regarding new additions.

Verlander will take the mound in Sunday’s series finale, looking to sweep the Seattle Mariners, a day after two pitchers joined the mix in unexpectedly historic fashion, when Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini were part of a combined no-hitter against the Mariners on Saturday

Sanchez, despite his prolonged struggles with the Toronto Blue Jays (-1.5), is expected to serve as the Astros’ fifth starter in the foreseeable future, while Biagini will claim a high-leverage role in the Houston bullpen. Both fulfilled their responsibilities in the Astros’ 9-0 victory, with Sanchez delivering six innings and Biagini working the eighth in the Astros’ second combined no-hitter.

For Sanchez in particular, it was a promising debut given his previous woes and the void he is charged to fill in a rotation that has battled injuries and ineffectiveness in the back end.

The task of integrating newcomers is a primary one of many facing manager AJ Hinch.

“I just loved that he came on to a really good team and pitched his game and did really well,” Hinch said. “I’ve been traded before, I’ve been the new guy on the team; I know the emotions that come with that.

“Biagini coming in and having a really good inning, Sanchez coming in and having a really good (start) — it’s nice to come in and have a first impression and contribute to a win and a special win when it comes to the no-hitter. I’m just proud of these guys coming on to a new team and doing their thing.”

The right-hander Verlander (14-4, 2.73 ERA) takes the ball on Sunday. He is 13-9 with a 3.38 ERA over 28 career starts against Seattle, including a 1-0 record and 4.15 ERA over three starts this season.

Verlander, four strikeouts shy of his ninth 200-strikeout season, went 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over five starts last month and, after surrendering 12 home runs in his last five starts prior to the All-Star break, has allowed only two homers in four starts since the season resumed.

Left-hander Tommy Milone (1-5, 4.39) will make his eighth appearance following an opener Sunday against the Astros. The Mariners will announce the opener in advance of the series finale.

Milone has posted a 3.86 ERA in eight relief appearances this season, recording 31 strikeouts against seven walks over 39 2/3 innings. He is 1-2 with a 4.87 ERA in 11 career appearances (seven starts) against the Astros and owns a 0.87 ERA over two relief appearances against Houston this season.

The Mariners were on the losing end of a combined no-hitter for the second time since the All-Star break. Seattle suffered a 13-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels (+1.5) in Anaheim on July 12 when Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined for eight strikeouts in their no-hitter.

Given their rebuilding status, the Mariners aren’t burdened with great expectations. Still, fielding a punchless offense is disconcerting, and considering the challenge Seattle faces in the series finale against Verlander, the search for hits and runs is one that needs to be resolved in a hurry.

“Not much. That’s what I’ve seen out of the offense,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Certainly Houston has good pitching and their style and way of attacking you, we just haven’t adjusted well to it at all. You have to score runs on the road to win, we haven’t done it. We’re having a hard time putting hits together, let alone scoring runs.”

–Field Level Media

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