Right on cue, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander pitched deep into his start on Friday against the Seattle Mariners, following another strong outing from right-hander Jose Urquidy.
The Astros will look for more length on Saturday from Framber Valdez, who has been a durable workhouse all season long. The left-hander will oppose Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen in the third game of a four-game series.
Verlander won his sixth consecutive start as the Astros defeated Seattle 11-1 following a 4-2 win in the series opener.
The 39-year-old veteran carried a shutout into the eighth inning before departing after 7 2/3 innings, his sixth successive start of at least six innings. Verlander, who has led the majors in innings on four occasions, ranks fourth in the American League with 124 innings.
Valdez, with 121 2/3 innings on his ledger, can pass Verlander on Saturday. Urquidy, meanwhile, recorded his eighth consecutive quality start on Thursday.
“We did also line this up on who’s going to pitch against these Mariners,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “There’s a luxury in doing that after the break knowing that we were going to (Seattle), and they did the same thing.
“They’re going to give you the best chance to win these games because this is the last time we play them in the regular season.”
Valdez (9-4, 2.74 ERA) has recorded 16 consecutive quality starts, the longest active streak in the majors. He has gone 8-3 with a 2.51 ERA and a .580 opponents’ OPS during that stretch.
Valdez has logged fewer than six innings in a start only twice this season — both in mid-April — and he has surrendered more than three earned runs just once.
The 28-year-old Dominican Republic native is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA over eight career appearances (six starts) against the Mariners. In his lone start against Seattle this season, he surrendered three runs on eight hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in an 8-5 road victory on Sunday.
Flexen (7-8, 3.75 ERA) is unbeaten in his past seven starts, going 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA in that span.
He was the pitcher of record in a 4-3 home victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings. Flexen has logged eight starts of seven innings pitched and no more than one run allowed since the start of 2021, tied for third most in the AL during that span.
Flexen is 1-6 with a 4.87 ERA over eight career starts against the Astros, including a 1-3 record and a 2.55 ERA in four starts this season. In his latest start against Houston, on June 7, he allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-1 road loss.
The Mariners made a significant addition to their rotation on Friday, acquiring Reds right-hander Luis Castillo in exchange for three of their top five prospects: shortstops Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo and right-hander Levi Stoudt. Seattle also shipped minor league pitcher Andrew Moore to Cincinnati.
Castillo (4-4, 2.86 ERA) pitched a scoreless innings for the National League All-Star team last week.
“We see Luis Castillo as an impact, top of the rotation starter who’s currently on top of his game,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “Our goal remains to play in the postseason, now and in the years to come. We believe adding Luis is a big step in that direction.”
–Field Level Media