Vintage Verlander silences Seattle as Astros top M's 5-1 to open key series in playoff race

SEATTLE (AP) — Justin Verlander took a shutout into the ninth inning, allowing just three hits and worked out of the one jam he faced, and the Houston Astros created some cushion in the AL playoff chase with a 5-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

Verlander was dominant with a vintage performance befitting his status as one of the top right-handers in the game for most of his career. He was on the verge of his first complete-game since 2019 when he no-hit Toronto, but manager Dusty Baker pulled Verlander after Josh Rojas led off the ninth inning with a double.

Rojas' double snapped Verlander's string of 16 straight batters retired, but the overall performance was exactly what the Astros needed after being swept at home over the weekend by Kansas City.

Verlander (12-8) struck out eight, walked one and threw 96 pitches as his outing helped give Houston a 1 1/2 game lead over Seattle for the final wild card in the American League.

Seattle lost its fourth straight and for the seventh time in 10 games.

Houston didn’t need much offense, but managed one big two-out rally against Seattle starter Luis Castillo (14-8) that scored three runs in the second inning. The Astros added on with long solo home runs from Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker for additional cushion. Alvarez's homer was his 30th of the season and came leading off the third inning. Tucker's homer leading off the sixth gave him 110 RBIs, most in the AL.

Making his first start against Seattle since last year’s AL Division Series, Verlander faced traffic on the bases only once. Seattle loaded the bases with one out in the third inning on singles by Dominic Canzone and Rojas and a walk to J.P. Crawford. But Verlander got Julio Rodríguez out in front of a curveball and Seattle’s young All-Star grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Verlander didn’t allow another base runner until Rojas got him in the ninth. Rojas scored on Rodríguez's sacrifice fly, ending the shutout.

The Mariners had won 10 straight games started by Castillo, but he suffered his first loss since July 14. Castillo threw six innings allowing eight hits, five runs and struck out eight.

Castillo was one strike away from getting out of the inning but Mauricio Dubón lined a 2-2 fastball into center field for a hit to score José Abreu. Martín Maldonado followed with an RBI single and Jose Altuve had an RBI single and in the span of six pitches a scoreless game became a 3-0 Houston lead.


Verlander made his 38th career start against Seattle and was the third time he pitched at least seven shutout innings against the Mariners. Verlander’s eight strikeouts were the second-most he’s had in a game this season.


Astros: RHP Cristian Javier (9-4, 4.64) struck out 11 and allowed only one earned run over five innings in his last start against Baltimore. Javier allowed three runs over seven innings in his only start against Seattle earlier this season.

Mariners: RHP George Kirby (11-10, 3.58) ended a string of rough outings by throwing seven innings and allowed three runs to get the victory in his last start against Oakland. It will be Kirby’s second start against Houston this season, after throwing 6 2/3 innings and allowing one run in July.



Tim Booth, The Associated Press