Justin Verlander grabs 12th win and enters all-time K-list

HOUSTON — After clinching his 12th MLB win on Saturday, Justin Verlander wasn’t ready to reflect on how far he’s come this season.

But the 39-year-old took a moment to note how his nearly two-year absence from the game following Tommy John’s surgery has made him appreciate his success a bit more.

“I’ve said the word perspective here a lot, and I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I think in the past I took a lot of things for granted, my health and some success when I was young, certainly not since I’ve been an Astro. But I think aging and going through some things can help you grow up and see some really positive things that you might not have taken a moment to see before.

Verlander hit 10 in six sharp innings and the Houston Astros defeated the Oakland Athletics 5-0.

Martín Maldonado scored a grand slam in the second inning as AL West league leaders Astros bounced back from a 5-1 loss in Friday night’s series opener. The A’s actually beat Houston 7-6 but had little to show.

Justin Verlander hit 10 in six sharp innings against the Oakland Athletics.
Justin Verlander hit 10 in six sharp innings against the Oakland Athletics.
AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Verlander (12-3) allowed six hits without a walk and dropped his ERA to 1.89 for third place in the majors. Phil Maton, Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu each had a scoreless inning to complete the shutout against the team with the worst record in the AL.

Verlander, who leads all active players in strikeouts, now has 3,121 in his career, moving past Curt Schilling (3,116) and Bob Gibson (3,117) to 14th on the all-time list.

He was selected for his ninth All-Star Game and will attend the celebrations next week in Los Angeles but will not attend Tuesday after throwing 106 pitches on Saturday.

“He has this inner drive that you can’t really teach anyone, especially a guy who’s been as successful as he is,” said manager Dusty Baker. “A lot of people would have just called it, but this guy loves to pitch and he loves to compete. We’re glad he put the time and effort into it and glad we got him back.”

Catcher Maldonado added, “That guy, I feel like he’s 25 years old.”

Verlander laughed when he heard Maldonado’s assessment of him.

“I appreciate that,” he said. “There is a lot of hard work involved in keeping the good fight and anger against the dying of the light as long as possible. And I will do that for as long as possible.”

Five of the six hits Verlander allowed were singles, and the only time the Athletics had more than one hit in an inning was when Dermis Garcia and Nick Allen hit back-to-back singles to start the fifth. But Vimael Machín made a double play before Verlander pulled Ramón Laureano back to end the threat.

“This is classic Justin,” said Oakland manager Mark Kotsay. “Life on the fastball and he threw a lot of breaking balls today.”

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve was in the lineup as the designated hitter after missing Friday’s game due to pain after being hit in the left knee by a pitch on Thursday. Altuve said he was still in pain Saturday and would not be attending the All-Star Game because of the injury.

There were two outs in the second as Yuli Gurriel and Jake Meyers hit back-to-back singles before Chas McCormick left to load bases.

Maldonado then tied rookie Jared Koenig (1-3) for his third career grand slam with a shot down midfield to make it 4-0.

Aledmys Díaz went off to start Houston’s fourth tournament and Gurriel singled by fielding an RBI single from McCormick.

Koenig notched six hits and five runs in a career-high seven innings for his third loss in five starts this season.

“The second inning kind of exploded, but after that he calmed down,” Kotsay said. “Just a bad inning.”

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