Former Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander sharp for Houston Astros in 5-1 win over Detroit
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT — Two seasons after being traded to Houston, Justin Verlander is still appreciated in the Motor City.
Verlander allowed two hits in seven impressive innings against his former team, and the Astros won their eighth straight game, 5-1 over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night. It was Verlander’s second start at Comerica Park since his 2017 trade from Detroit to Houston. The crowd was sparse, but he received a nice little ovation after his last inning of work, and he waved to acknowledge the fans.
“It honestly is really special. I think for the most part of my career here, the fans were always incredible toward me,” Verlander said. “What it comes down to is I always gave everything I had — blood, sweat, tears. There was never anything left out there.”
Verlander (7-1) struck out nine. JaCoby Jones homered off him in the third for the Tigers’ only run, but with Miguel Cabrera out of the lineup, Detroit managed little offensively. The only significant jam Verlander faced was in the fifth, when Niko Goodrum lined out with the bases loaded.
Alex Bregman hit his 14th homer of the season, a solo shot off Gregory Soto (0-2) to open the scoring in the first. Bregman pulled within two home runs of teammate George Springer, the American League leader. Springer nearly hit one of his own, but Detroit left fielder Christin Stewart reached above the wall to make the catch in the fourth.
Verlander retired his first eight hitters before Jones connected for a 436-foot homer in the third. The right-hander rebounded by striking out the side in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the fifth and the Tigers down 3-1, Goodrum hit a line drive that second baseman Aledmys Diaz caught to end the inning.
The announced attendance was just 15,940 — a far cry from the atmosphere for some of Verlander’s starts when he was leading the Tigers to division titles in Detroit.
“It’s kind of sad,” he said. “I think most of my memories here, this ballpark was packed and fans were rowdy, and it’s obviously a bit different now. But that comes with winning.”