Justin Verlander dominates, Jason Castro homers, Astros beat Mets 2-0

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NEW YORK — Justin Verlander pitched two-hit ball for eight innings, light-hitting backup catcher Jason Castro lined a two-run homer in the ninth and the Houston Astros beat the Mets 2-0 Wednesday to send New York to its first three-game losing streak this season.

Astros left fielder Yordan Alvarez and shortstop Jeremy Pena were hurt when they collided in the eighth while running down Dominic Smith’s popup. Both called for the ball and as Pena caught the pop, and they hit each other in the face with their gloves. Alvarez was removed on a cart, sitting up, and Pena walked back to the dugout during the eight-minute delay.

Verlander (10-3) became the major leagues’ first 10-game winner, striking out six and walking one. The 39-year-old right-hander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, has a 2.03 ERA this year in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 19 chances, finishing the Astros’ second two-game sweep of the Mets in a nine-day span.

Taijuan Walker allowed four hits in a season-high 7 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Walker was removed after 27 batters – he has not faced a hitter four times in a game since 2017 – and Edwin Diaz relieved to face Jose Altuve.

Castro began the day hitting .095 with one RBI in 74 at-bats. Kyle Tucker singled off Drew Smith (1-2) leading off the ninth, and with two outs Castro drove a slider into the right-field seats.

PER CHANCE

Mets third baseman Luis Guillorme had a dozen chances – two putouts and 10 assists. Boston’s Rafael Devers set the record for a nine-inning game with 14 against the Yankees in 2019.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: RHP Max Scherzer (strained oblique) was to make his second rehab start for Double-A Binghamton, at Hartford on Wednesday night. … RHP Jacob deGrom (stress reaction right shoulder) threw 27 pitches to batters at Port St. Lucie, Florida and could be ready to start a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Luis Garcia (5-5) starts Thursday’s one-game series at home against the New York Yankees and RHP Luis Severino (4-2), a makeup of a game postponed by the lockout.

Mets: RHP Chris Bassitt (6-5) starts a home series against Texas on Friday night.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.