HOUSTON (AP) — Watching Wade Miley go right at the Minnesota Twins’ lineup the night before inspired Justin Verlander.
The right-hander followed suit and pitched eight dominant innings, and Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all homered to lead the Houston Astros to a 7-1 win over the Twins on Wednesday night.
“He’s done this for over a decade,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He knows how to finish his outings strong and control the game when he’s got the lead. I’ve said before, he’s a good pitcher all the time, he’s a really tough guy to come back on when he has the lead.”
Verlander (4-0) retired the first 10 batters before Jorge Polanco crushed a pitch into the second deck in right field in the fourth inning for the Twins’ lone run. Verlander retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
“We talk about it all the time: when you show up and face guys of this caliber, you generally can’t play good, you generally have to play a great game, have great at bats and pitch and play defense,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We played fine tonight. This was a day, though, where we just got beat.”
The right-hander gave up one run and four hits while striking out eight for his seventh-straight win dating back to last season.
In Verlander’s last three starts, he has given up three runs in 21 innings with 27 strikeouts.
“I think the last few starts have been right where I want to be,” Verlander said. “The first few was tinkering, working on some things. I’ve settled in and I think found my rhythm.”
In the second inning, Correa lined the first pitch he saw off the foul pole in right field for his third home run in the last four games.
Brantley extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run homer in the third inning, making it 3-0. Reddick added a two-run shot in the eighth.
“I’m doing alright, I take it one game at a time,” Brantley said. “Good, bad or indifferent, I come in with a positive attitude and just try to do the best I can for my team.”
This was the first time Kohl Stewart (0-1), who was making his 2019 season debut, had given up two home runs in a single outing in his career. It was his first appearance since last Sept. 25.
Stewart finished giving up five runs and eight hits, striking out one and walking three in six innings.
“There’s a couple things I did well,” Stewart said. “Obviously, I fell behind a couple too many guys. I had to try to get back into counts. A couple heaters that might have gotten too much plate that they got into the air.”
In the fourth, the Astros tacked on two more runs on a double by Robinson Chirinos, who later scored on a wild pitch, making it 5-1.
“In the middle of the order, at the end of the order and everywhere in between, when we’re at our best we are tough to get through,” Hinch said. “I like that part of it, that there was a lot of contributions.”
For the first time since April 19, the Astros’ starting pitcher didn’t allow a first-inning run. Houston had been outscored 13-0 in the first inning in the previous four games.
“I think over the last four days the best part for anybody was if it even crossed your mind was to throw it right back out because you didn’t want to have bad vibes of another first-inning deficit,” Reddick said. “I don’t think we thought about it. It was good to have a lead for the first time early on.”
The Twins recalled Stewart and Fernando Romero from Triple-A Rochester after Tuesday’s game. Romero also made his season debut pitching two innings of relief, giving up two runs. To make room, Minnesota sent down outfielder Jake Cave and right-hander Tyler Duffey to Rochester.
Twins: LHP Martin Perez (2-0, 5-31 ERA) will look to stay perfect as he opens the series against the Orioles on Friday. Perez is 3-4 with a 5.44 ERA against them.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-3, 5.22 ERA) will open a four-game series against the Indians on Thursday. Cole is looking to bounce back from one of his worst starts of his career after giving up nine runs against the Rangers on April 20.