Dan Haren blames shortest start since 2005 on stiff back

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Dan Haren didn’t make it out of the fourth inning Tuesday night against the punchless Twins lineup, coughing up five runs on eight hits in his shortest start since 2005.

Afterward he revealed the lower back stiffness that came on during his pregame bullpen session made it tough to finish pitches, which helps explain how Haren failed to record a strikeout in a start for the first time since 2004.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com notes that Haren has pitched 10 seasons in the majors without going on the disabled list and he’s trying to avoid doing so now, downplaying the severity of the injury. His next start will be worth watching and he gets another extremely favorable matchup at home versus the A’s.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.