Verlander wins MLB-leading 14th, Astros rout Mariners 11-1

HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched one-run ball into the eighth inning and won his MLB-leading 14th game, Aledmys Díaz hit two homers and Yordan Alvarez slugged his 30th home run of the season as the Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 11-1 on Friday night.

Verlander (14-3) allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings, with five hits and five strikeouts in outdueling Seattle’s Robbie Ray, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner.

Verlander held Seattle scoreless until Jesse Winker and Julio Rodríguez doubled in the seventh inning.

“He didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but he had them off balance,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He was dealing. We got him some runs, and it’s hard sometimes for a pitcher who gets that kind of run support to still concentrate on getting the hitters out, but he’s a strong-minded guy. It was like the game was 0-0. He just kept pitching.”

Verlander allowed just three earned runs in four starts and 26 2/3 innings in July. The 39-year-old right-hander, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, has allowed one earned run or less in six straight starts.

Verlander received a standing ovation as he walked off the field and tipped his hat to the packed house.

“It was an amazing ovation,” Verlander said. “The fans are incredible. It felt really special to have them acknowledge me like that. A sellout crowd, per usual, and it’s just nice to go out and perform and have them support you like that.”

Also Friday, the Mariners made a move to strengthen their pitching, acquiring the top starting pitcher on the trade market, getting All-Star Luis Castillo from the payroll-paring Cincinnati Reds for four minor league prospects.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game — he’s really established himself as a dominant starter,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve got a chance to do something really big here this year. You have to step out and take a chance once in a while if you ultimately want to get the reward, take a little risk. Dominant starting pitcher, and I’m anxious to meet him.”

Cincinnati obtained infielders Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo, and right-handers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore. Marte was the Mariners’ top-rated prospect, Arroyo was third and Stoudt fifth.

Seattle has not been to the playoffs since 2001, the longest postseason drought in the four major North American professional sports.

The Astros chased Ray (8-8) by scoring three runs in the third inning. Ray gave up singles to Yuli Gurriel and Alvarez and a two-run double to Alex Bregman that put Houston up 4-0.

Díaz sent a Ray pitch 401 feet onto the left-field train tracks in the second inning. Díaz added another solo homer in the eighth inning off catcher Luis Torrens.

“The last month, I’ve been feeling great at the plate,” Díaz said. “I’m glad I got a chance to be in the lineup and contribute to the win.”

Ray worked just 2 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and four runs on 84 pitches. He has been hit hard by Houston this season, giving up 14 runs in 10 2/3 innings in three starts.

Bregman added another RBI in the fourth inning on a single off Penn Murfee to left-center that scored Gurriel to put Houston up 5-0.

Alvarez’s homer to deep right-center field came in the sixth inning off an 85 mph fastball from Tommy Millone. Astros center fielder Mauricio Dubón also homered in the sixth, a shot near the left-field foul pole off Millone that put Houston up 9-0.

Houston has won five straight against Seattle and leads the season series 11-6. The Astros are 34-19 against the AL West this season.

Seattle is 17-5 in its last 22 games, with all five losses coming against Houston. The Mariners haven’t lost to a team except the Astros since July 1.

“Obviously, not our night,” Servais said. “They were all over Robbie again. We just couldn’t get anything going. You’re going to have these games every once in a while, and we haven’t had a game like this in a long, long time.”

VERLANDER EYEING ANOTHER CY YOUNG?

“I can’t really put into words what that would mean,” he said. “All of this is just such a blessing after the last couple of years, with Tommy John. To be able to be back and be successful, there were a lot of doubters, but I just had to believe in myself, and my family had my back, and my teammates had my back. If that were to happen, that would be incredible.”

YORDAN ‘APPROACHING EXCELLENCE’

“I’ve been around some great hitters, and he’s fast approaching that area of excellence. Just keep it coming.” — Astros manager Dusty Baker on Alvarez.

MACHETE MALDONADO

Mariners OF Julio Rodriguez was caught trying to steal second base in the first inning by Astros catcher Martin Maldonado. Rodriguez leads AL rookies with 21 steals on 26 attempts, but Maldonado caught him for his eighth of the season on 25 attempts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: After RHP Diego Castillo was placed on the 15-day injured list on Thursday night with right shoulder inflammation, the Mariners recalled RHP Matt Brash from Triple-A Tacoma. On Friday, the team claimed RHP Phillips Valdez off waivers from Boston and optioned him to Tacoma.

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr. continues to make progress in his rehab from a forearm strain in the offseason. He will make his third rehab start on Tuesday night at Triple-A Sugar Land.

UP NEXT

Mariners: Chris Flexen (7-8, 3.75) starts for Seattle on Saturday, hoping to close out an impressive July in which he has a 1.61 ERA in four starts, all of which the Mariners have won.

Astros: Framber Valdez (9-4, 2.74) will start Saturday, six days after he held the Mariners to three runs in 6 2/3 innings in an 8-5 win in Seattle on Sunday.

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