Verlander 1st 13-game winner, Astros beat Mariners 3-1

Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Justin Verlander became the major leagues’ first 13-game winner, striking out nine and topping 99 mph in his final inning to lead the Houston Astros over the Seattle Mariners 3-1 on Saturday.

Verlander (13-3) allowed four hits in seven innings to win his fifth straight start and lower his ERA to 1.86, second in the American League to Shane McClanahan‘s 1.71 for Tampa Bay.

A 39-year-old right-hander who missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Verlander averaged 96.3 mph with his fastball, 1.4 mph above his season average coming in.

“I feel like I haven’t been able to let it go like that in a long time,” Verlander said.

He said he was throwing the ball recently on an off day and tried a different arm path. He saw positive results in his last start before the All-Star break.

‘It was a solid one tick up,” he said. “I was able to do that again today and a lot more times, so I’m definitely happy and a bit surprised. Surprise is the wrong word – I was hopeful that this this could happen.”

Verlander retired 15 straight between Adam Frazier‘s second-inning single and Carlos Santana‘s ninth home run, which cut the lead to 2-1 in the seventh. Seattle loaded the bases on walks by Eugenio Suarez and pinch-hitter Kyle Lewis around Frazier’s single, and Verlander struck out No. 9 hitter Sam Haggerty on his 101st and final pitch, clocked at 97.4 mph.

Verlander has allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of his last eight starts.

“I remember the greats, Bob Gibson and (Tom) Seaver, and I told him, `You know, when they were in trouble, they knew how to pitch out of trouble,”‘ Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “The mark of a good pitcher is figuring out how to get either a double play or a popup or a strikeout, and I tell you, that one that was great. I mean, we needed that. He needed it. We’re operating on fumes today, so I’ll say that was a great victory.”

Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel hit RBI doubles in the fourth to help the Astros to their fourth consecutive win and send Seattle to its second straight loss after a 14-game winning streak.

Houston is 27-9 since June 12 and ended the Mariners’ streak of eight consecutive winning series.

Logan Gilbert (10-4) gave up two runs and five hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and one walk. He struck out his first four batters, but gave up back-to-back doubles to Gurriel and Tucker with two outs in the fourth after his only walk, to Yordan Alvarez.

Jose Altuve scored on Ryan Boruki’s wild pitch in the eighth.

Bryan Abreu got three straight outs to finish the four-hitter for his second big league save, his first since May 26 last year.

“We haven’t lost a series in a while,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve played so well. We’ve been getting all those big hits in those big moments. It just hasn’t happened the last couple of nights.”

SANTANA

Santana has nine homers against Verlander, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Closer Ryan Pressly could return to an overused bullpen Sunday from paternity leave. … RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (right forearm strain) made a rehab start Friday for Double-A Corpus Christi, striking out three over two innings. He threw 40 pitches, allowing a run. McCullers has missed the entire season. “I heard he had good velocity,” Baker said. “I heard he threw the ball well, and I’ve heard he’s very happy with his performance, especially the first time out. I’m sure he was a little nervous. But I’m waiting to hear today from our trainers to see if he has the aftereffects.”

Mariners: Servais said All-Star rookie Julio Rodriguez remains day to day after missing a second day due to a left wrist strain. The center fielder was not available off the bench Saturday, and Servais said he would remain out of the lineup until there was no soreness. Servais wasn’t sure when Rodriguez injured the wrist. He jammed it against the Rangers last Sunday sliding into second, but told Servais he wasn’t hurt afterward and appeared to participate in the Home Run Derby without issue. “If anybody’s ever been involved in an event like that – not many of us have – but the adrenaline rush just has to be out of this world, you know, with everybody on their feet and you’re doing your thing and you’re 21 years old,” Servais said. “And I’m guessing he felt that the next day after or something like that.”

UP NEXT

Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (8-4, 2.66 ERA) returns to the mound for the first time following his All-Star Game win. He struck out 10 over six scoreless innings during his last start, a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on July 14.

Mariners: LHP Robbie Ray (8-6, 3.54) is 4-0 in his last eight starts, matching his season high with 12 strikeouts at Texas on July 15.

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.