Fifteen weeks ago, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a road start against the Minnesota Twins.
On Tuesday, after he didn’t allow a hit to the Twins through six innings, Verlander left his eighth consecutive victory with an eye on the big picture.
The Astros won the opener of their three-game series with the visiting Twins 4-2 behind another stellar performance from Verlander, who allowed just one baserunner while recording 10 strikeouts over six no-hit frames. It marked the third double-digit strikeout effort for Verlander this season, who threw 91 pitches, including 62 strikes, while handcuffing the scuffling Twins.
Afterward, Astros manager Dusty Baker tied the decision to pull Verlander after six innings to an announcement that Houston was returning to a five-man rotation. Verlander entered his 23rd start with a 90-pitch cap, and given his excellence in his first season back following Tommy John surgery, the Astros remain committed to keeping Verlander healthy for a lengthy playoff run.
“Maybe 15 years ago, 10 years ago when I was allowed to throw 130-something,” Verlander, 39, said. “Not now and specifically not after Tommy John and this being my first season back.
“It was a pretty easy conversation. I talked to Maldy (catcher Martin Maldonado), talked to (Astros pitching coach Josh) Miller and I think we all agreed that was the right decision.”
Left-hander Framber Valdez (12-4, 2.72 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Wednesday. He matched the club record, set by right-hander Mike Scott in 1986, with his 20th consecutive quality start in his previous appearance when he limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts over seven innings in a 3-2 victory on Aug. 17. Valdez is 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA during his streak and is unbeaten over his last six starts, posting a 4-0 record and 2.93 ERA during that span.
Valdez is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in six career appearances (three starts) against the Twins. He split a pair of decisions against Minnesota last season, going 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy (7-5, 4.60 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Twins. He earned his first victory in five starts last Friday, allowing one run on two hits and one walk with two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers. That matched Bundy’s longest outing since he worked six innings against the Colorado Rockies on June 24, a span of 10 starts.
Bundy is 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against the Astros. He did not record a decision in his three starts against Houston bridging the 2020-21 campaigns.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was ejected in the fifth inning on Tuesday by crew chief Todd Tichenor after disputing that Twins starter Aaron Sanchez was required to depart following a second mound visit, with the first coming during a bench-clearing dustup when Sanchez hit Jose Altuve with a pitch.
“I didn’t agree with it, I didn’t like that it was given in the first place,” Baldelli said. “I really didn’t like the lack of communication on a really unusual play and period of time when there’s people all over the field. My back’s to the field walking back to the dugout after everything and then being told that that’s the case. I didn’t like it.
“I think at the bare minimum, I think it’s necessary for someone to come over and let us know that a visit was given.”