• Brian L. Barefield

Justin Verlander Turns Astros "Check Engine" Light Off In Shutout Win Over The Mariners

Photo Credit-Houston Astros

No one who owns and operates a vehicle likes to see the check engine light. When it pops up on the dashboard, it is an indication that a minor problem has occurred and the vehicle needs to be checked soon by a mechanic.

Coming into Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners, Houston’s check engine light was very noticeable by the team and the fanbase. The Astros’ two-game losing streak wasn’t much of a concern. The inefficiency of the pitchers on the mound had manager Dusty Baker perplexed as he watched his last three starters have lackluster performances.

The good thing for Houston is they have one of the best baseball mechanics in the game in right-hand pitcher Justin Verlander. The former two-time Cy Young Award winner knew how to turn off the check engine for the Astros as he pitched eight scoreless innings in Houston’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners.

It was his first victory since defeating Seattle on July 24, 2020, on the opening day of the 2020 season. Unfortunately, that was his last time on the mound in the COVID shortened season as he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He also spent the entire 2021 season rehabbing from that surgery which made him unavailable for the Astros.

“I wouldn’t have put in all the hard work if I didn’t think I could still pitch at a high level,” said Verlander, who has now thrown for over 3,000 innings in his career. “But that being said, it is definitely gratifying to have that feeling again of going out there after a tough loss on yesterday and being able to pick us up and go deep in the game and do what I expect to do most times out.”

Photo Credit-Houston Astros

Verlander, 39, needed just 87 pitches to keep the Mariners hitters at bay. His masterful command of the strike zone had the opposing team searching for advantages at the plate but were unsuccessful. Verlander allowed only three scattered singles as he struck out eight batters and did not allow a runner to reach base via a walk.

After a short inning and a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, pitching coach Joshua Miller, Dusty Baker, and Verlander decided to send him back to the mound. In under 15 pitches, he recorded three-outs and headed back to the dugout. It would be his final inning of work as he had no objections to bringing in a reliever Hector Neris to finish the game.

“That was a great, great ballgame and we needed it after last night, the way we got slaughtered last night,” said manager Dusty Baker. “It was a different ballgame today because we had our ace on the mound.”

Houston will face Seattle in the three-game series finale on Sunday before finally heading home to play in front of their fans for the first time this season at Minute Maid Park on Monday.

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