HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander capped his magnificent comeback season by striking out 10 without allowing a hit in five innings, and Houston’s bullpen kept the Philadelphia Phillies hitless until the ninth inning in a 10-0 win Tuesday night.
Verlander, who has pitched three no-hitters in his career, walked one before being pulled after 77 pitches. The AL West champion Astros led the NL wild-card Phillies 8-0 at the point.
Rookie Hunter Brown pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings and Hector Neris got the last two outs of the eighth inning. Will Smith came on for the ninth Garrett Stubbs singled to center field to break up the no-hitter bid, causing a smattering of boos from the crowd.
Jeremy Peña, Kyle Tucker and Martín Maldonado homered as the Astros jumped on Ranger Suárez (10-7) for six runs in two innings to build a huge lead early in their 1,000th win at Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000.
Verlander (18-4) collected his American League-leading 18th win, and his MLB-leading 1.75 ERA is the lowest for a qualified pitcher in the AL, excluding the pandemic-shortened season, since Pedro Martinez posted a 1.74 ERA in 2000.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner’s ERA is also the lowest of his career, besting his 2.40 ERA in 2011, when he won his first Cy Young and was also named AL MVP while with Detroit.
Verlander, who also won the Cy Young in 2019, is a top candidate to win the award for a third time this season after returning to form following an almost two-year absence following Tommy John surgery.
The 39-year-old Verlander was dominant from the start Tuesday, fanning eight consecutive batters at one point to set a career-high and tie a franchise record.
That eight-strikeout streak started when he struck out Darick Hall to end the first. He then struck out the side in both the second and third innings before striking out Bryce Harper to start the fourth.
The streak ended when Alec Bohm grounded out after that. Verlander didn’t allow a baserunner until Brandon Marsh walked to start the fifth.
But he got right back on track, retiring Bryson Stott and Nick Maton before Matt Vierling grounded into a force-out to end the inning.
Verlander received a nice ovation as he walked to the dugout and he tipped his cap to the crowd just before stepping off the field.
Harper and Marsh played Tuesday, but the Phillies fielded a lineup missing many of their regular starters after clinching their first playoff berth since 2011 a night earlier.
Jose Altuve hit a leadoff double before Peña homered to center field to make it 2-0. Yordan Alvarez then doubled off the wall in left field and Alex Bregman walked.
Tucker then smacked a ball to the seats in right field to extend the lead to 5-0.
Maldonado pushed it to 6-0 when he opened Houston’s second with his shot to left-center.
Tucker has 30 homers, 107 RBIs and 25 stolen bases this season to join Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell as the only players in franchise history with at least 30 homers, 25 steals and 100 RBIs in a season. Bagwell twice, in 1997 and 1999.
Suárez allowed seven hits and six runs, with a career-high three homers in three innings.
Christian Vazquez and Mauricio Dubon each hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to make it 8-0.
NO-HITTERS THIS SEASON
There have been three no-hitters this season, including two combined no-hitters.
Los Angeles Angels rookie Reid Detmers kept the Tampa Bay Rays hitless in May. The New York Mets had a combined no-hitter against the Phillies and the Astros combined for a no-hitter against the New York Yankees.
Astros: Bench coach Joe Espada was not feeling well Tuesday and was not at the ballpark.
Houston’s Framber Valdez (16-6, 2.89) opposes Bailey Falter (6-4, 3.90) Wednesday as these teams wrap up the regular season.