Major League Baseball

Astros’ Verlander tries to end winless span vs. Jays

MLB3ASTROS (88-49) AT BLUE JAYS (55-82)

Justin Verlander has dominated the big leagues for a long time, but the Toronto Blue Jays (+2) haven’t followed the trend in recent years.

Verlander will get his next opportunity to end a six-year dry spell against the Blue Jays when he takes the mound for the visiting Houston Astros (-2) in the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon.

Verlander (16-5, 2.69 ERA) is a front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award this season, but he’d probably like to add a win against Toronto to his resume.

He hasn’t beaten the Blue Jays since 2013, going 0-4 in his past five starts against them with a 6.07 ERA.

His memories of Toronto aren’t all bad, however. Verlander threw his second career no-hitter against the Blue Jays on May 7, 2011.

Overall, he’s 3-6 in his career against them with a 4.73 ERA in 13 starts.

He’ll face a Toronto lineup that’s led by three sons of former major leaguers; Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

Biggio, the son of Hall of Fame infielder Craig Biggio, who spent his entire 21-year career with the Astros, homered in each of the first two games of the series.

He told Sportsnet after a 6-4 win on Saturday that he’s trying to remain aggressive on every pitch.

“When I’m more aggressive on every pitch when I’m in the batter’s box, my timing’s better,” he said. “When my timing’s better, I see the ball a lot longer.”

Verlander’s major league career and Craig Biggio’s overlapped for three seasons, but they never faced each other.

Verlander, 36, took a rare three-start winless streak into his last outing on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays (-1.5), ending it by throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings in the 15-1 victory.

Verlander was ejected in the sixth inning by home plate umpire Pat Hoberg, which limited his pitch count to a season-low 87.

Verlander leads the AL in innings pitched (184) and ERA and is second in strikeouts with 243.

His heavy workload hasn’t shown any signs of wearing him down. Verlander is 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA since starting the All-Star Game. He has struck out 90 batters in 57 1/3 innings since the break.

The Astros hope Verlander can follow his usual course and pitch deep into the game, giving their injury-plagued bullpen a break.

Houston put reliever Collin McHugh on the injured list on Saturday because of soreness in his throwing elbow. He was the fourth Houston reliever to go on the injured list in August.

Houston is expected to activate right-hander Josh James, who has missed the past five weeks with shoulder soreness.

“You can go onto any pitching staff in the big leagues and find somebody or find everybody who’s had a little something this time of year,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said before Saturday’s loss. “It’s not that surprising.”

Verlander will be opposed at the start by Wilmer Font (3-3, 4.35 ERA), who has gone multiple innings in seven of his last eight appearances, as an opener for the Blue Jays.

Font has performed well since moving into that role, owning a 1.76 ERA in 15 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays are expected to hand the ball to either Zack Godley (4-5, 6.17 ERA) or Sam Gaviglio (4-2, 4.66 ERA) following Font’s outing.

–Field Level Media

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