Verlander saluted back at Comerica in Astros win

AP, DETROIT, Michigan

Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 16

Justin Verlander knew this would be one of the most emotional games of his major league career.

He still was not prepared.

On his return to Detroit, Verlander on Monday received three standing ovations while pitching the Houston Astros to a 3-2 victory over the Tigers.

Verlander (15-9) made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2005 and ranks among the top 10 on several of the team’s career lists.

He struck out 10 over seven innings in his first time on the Comerica Park mound since being traded to Houston in August last year.

“Our hotel is right near my old house, so I got to spend some time in the neighborhood today,” Verlander said. “I was trying to keep my routine as much as possible.”

That hope ended early, as the scoreboard played a tribute video as Verlander was walking in from the bullpen after his pregame warmup.

He stopped, alone in shallow right-center field, and watched the entire show.

“It was almost normal until the tribute video, but that really got to me,” he said. “I had a lot of great memories in my 13 years here and that brought it all back. I wanted to get to the dugout before it started, but once it started playing, I had to watch.”

Verlander received his first ovation at the end of the video and another when he came out for the first inning.

Each time, he tipped his cap and waved to the fans.

The longest cheer, though, came when he walked off the mound after the seventh, having thrown 104 pitches.

“The one [ovation] after the seventh really meant the world to me,” he said. “The fans here were always great to be here, and they showed that again tonight. That was a really emotional moment.”

“Tonight mattered a lot to him,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It is important to him that he pitched here and succeeded here, so it was special for him to get back on that mound.”

World Series champions the Astros opened a three-game lead over Oakland at the top of the American League West, despite a sloppy game that came after a Sunday night loss in Boston.

“I’m proud of our guys, because there was a lot going on today and we didn’t play our best game, but we still found a way to pull out a win,” Hinch said.

Verlander allowed two runs on six hits and one walk, improving to 98-50 at Comerica Park.

Max Scherzer is second in career wins at the stadium with 46, while Jordan Zimmermann leads the current Tigers with 14.

“He got exactly the response he deserved from our fans,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was a great pitcher here for a long time and he did a lot of great things for this city.”

The Tigers put two runners on in the seventh, but Verlander struck out JaCoby Jones and Jeimer Candelario to escape with a 3-2 lead.

He tipped his cap again as the fans came to their feet after the final pitch to Candelario.

“This was a special night,” Verlander said.

Roberto Osuna worked the ninth for his 16th save, including seven with Houston.

Francisco Liriano (4-10) allowed three unearned runs on four hits and four walks in six innings.

He struck out seven in his longest outing since pitching six innings on July 4.

The Tigers took the lead in the second. Niko Goodrum doubled and later scored on a single by Dawel Lugo.

Liriano’s wild pitch and an error by shortstop Ronny Rodriguez allowed the Astros to score three unearned runs in the third.

Tyler White and Marwin Gonzalez hit RBI singles, while the Tigers failed to turn two potential double plays.

“You have to make plays,” Gardenhire said. “When you miss plays, that’s what always happens. We had a chance to get some outs, didn’t do it and it cost us runs.”