ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)Kyle Tucker hit a tiebreaking pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning and the Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers 3-2 in a series finale that began as an impressive duel between starting pitchers.
Tucker’s two-run blast came off Matt Bush (0-1), the first reliever for Texas after left-hander Martin Perez took a perfect game into the seventh inning before giving up his only run.
Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (2-0) struck out eight and allowed one run over seven innings in only his fourth start since Tommy John surgery. The right-hander threw 64 of 91 pitches for strikes and didn’t have a walk while lowering his season ERA to 1.73.
Blake Taylor pitched a perfect eighth for the Astros. Rafael Montero then worked the ninth with usual closer Ryan Pressly still on the injured list and got his first save despite Corey Seager’s one-out homer to straightaway center.
Perez retired the first 18 batters he faced before Chas McCormick lined a double into the right-center gap on a full-count pitch leading off the seventh. The lefty got out two more batters out before Yordan Alvarez lined an opposite-field single to left to drive in McCormick.
Before McCormick’s double, the closest the Astros had gotten to a hit was when Jose Siri had a one-out comebacker in the sixth that ricocheted off the pitcher. Perez scrambled off the mound and made a strong throw to first for a bang-bang play that was ruled out – and stood after a replay challenge by Houston.
Texas got even at 1 in the bottom of the seventh, when Adolis Garcia had a sacrifice fly to center after the Rangers loaded the bases with three consecutive one-out singles off Verlander. That included a checked swing from Mitch Garver that turned into a groundball hit against a shifted infield.
The only Rangers hit, and only baserunner, before then was No. 9 hitter Andy Ibanez with a sharp single up the middle in the third.
PERFECT THROUGH SIX
Perez was the first Rangers pitcher to retire the first 18 batters in a game since Mike Minor against San Diego on June 27, 2018. He was the second MLB pitcher to do that this season. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw retired all 21 batters he faced at Minnesota on April 13 before being pulled from his first start of the season after 13 strikeouts and 80 pitches.
Astros: 2B Jose Altuve (strained hamstring) is scheduled to play rehab games for Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday and Saturday and could be activated from the injured list when Houston returns home Monday to start a series against Seattle. Altuve has been on the IL since April 19 and could have been activated as early as Friday. General manager James Click says Altuve wanted to play a couple of games to get his timing back before rejoining the Astros lineup.
Rangers: Catcher Jonah Heim was put on the paternity list after the birth Thursday morning of his second child, a daughter born just before 8 a.m.
Astros: Jose Urquidy (1-1, 3.15 ERA) is the the scheduled starter when Houston opens a three-game series Friday night in Toronto.
Rangers: After dropping three of four to the defending American League champions, the Rangers open a three-game weekend series Friday against the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
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