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Astros spoil Justin Verlander’s homecoming after beating Mets, 4-2

HOUSTON — Justin Verlander dueled Framber Valdez through seven innings Tuesday night in his Houston homecoming, but in the end it was his former teammate that bested him.

The Mets fell 4-2 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in the second game of a three-game series. Verlander, who won his third Cy Young Award as a member of the Astros less than a year ago, gave up all four runs, continuing his trend of following each good start with a tough one.

The Astros took three runs off their former ace in the third inning. A leadoff double, a single and a sacrifice fly gave Houston (40-34) a 1-0 lead. Alex Bregman, a close friend of Verlander, swung on a 3-0 fastball and sent it into the left field stands for a two-run shot to make it 3-0.

“I know Breggy does his homework,” Verlander said. “That’s on me, I should have known a little better. I was trying to limit the damage on the big inning by not walking him.”

Verlander (2-4) settled in, shutting down the Astros for the next three innings. He allowed one more run in the seventh, but otherwise was effective. The four runs came on eight hits and the 40-year-old right-hander struck out five and walked none.

“A lot of soft contact, except for the ambush on the 3-0. He was solid,” Buck Showalter said. “Pitching in a sticky, hot night and through other stuff for seven innings. Brigham came in and bent but he gave us a chance. Their shortstop made a couple big plays, even in the last inning when we could have gotten some things going our way. But a well-pitched game. Really well-pitched on both parts.”

It wasn’t his best start, but it wasn’t his worst. However, it wasn’t exactly the outcome he had been hoping for during an emotional return to the city where he won two World Series championships. Verlander received his championship ring Monday and reflected on his 5 1/2 years with the Astros. He was married a few days after winning his first World Series. He became a dad while playing for Houston and he revived his career after Tommy John surgery left many wondering if he would be able to return.

“I didn’t love it,” Verlander said of facing his former team. “I’m so freshly removed from knowing those guys so well. You try to turn that part of you off and just focus on pitching and attacking those guys. They came out on top.”

Valdez (7-5), a left-hander, no-hit the Mets (34-39) for 5 1/3 innings before eventually going eight. The Mets had trouble picking up the spin on his pitches.

“He’s got four above-average pitches and I think it’s really difficult to recognize spin off of him,” Showalter said. “That’s why you see some good hitters swinging at pitches where your first thought is, why are they swinging at that pitch? The spin is so tight on it but there’s a lot of late recognition of that pitch and you don’t have much time. I think that’s something people miss about him is how late the recognition of spin is on his two breaking balls.”

Mark Canha broke up the no-hitter with an infield single. The Mets had no answer for him until the eighth, when they scored twice to cut the Astros lead in half. Tommy Pham led off with a single to extend his hitting streak to six games. A double by Francisco Alvarez put him on third base, in position to score on Canha’s fly ball two batters later. A line drive to center field by Eduardo Escobar scored Alvarez.

Valdez was efficient in limiting the Mets to two earned runs on four hits while walking one and striking out nine. The Mets didn’t have many baserunners to begin with and only left two on against him.

“He’s got two pitches he throws extremely well, a 96 MPH sinker and a tough cutter,” said second baseman Jeff McNeil. “He kind of throws it down the middle and lets the sinker kind of go up and in and the slider go down and away. As a hitter, that’s tough. You see it down the middle and you’ve kind of got to choose one or the other.”

Right-hander Jeff Brigham got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to keep the Mets in the game. But right-hander Ryan Pressly retired the side in order in the ninth to work his 13th save.

“This is competition,” Verlander said. “They feel good about it, but I don’t.”

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Source: Berkshire mont

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