Scherzer gives up seven runs in three innings
The Rangers had high hopes for their ace pitcher Max Scherzer, who was facing his former teammate Justin Verlander for the first time in his career. But the Astros had other plans, as they crushed Scherzer with a barrage of hits and homers, scoring seven runs in the first three innings. Scherzer, who had a 2.21 ERA in his previous six starts with Texas, gave up six hits, three walks, and three home runs, including a grand slam by Jose Abreu. He was pulled out of the game after throwing 76 pitches and recording only nine outs.
The Astros’ offense was relentless, as they chased Scherzer with a four-run third inning that featured Abreu’s slam and a solo shot by Carlos Correa. Scherzer also allowed a two-run homer by Michael Brantley in the first inning and a solo blast by Yordan Alvarez in the second. The Rangers’ defense did not help Scherzer either, as they committed two errors behind him.
Scherzer, who was traded to the Rangers by the Mets in July, had been one of the best pitchers in the league since joining Texas. He had allowed only two home runs in 36 2/3 innings with his new team before Wednesday’s debacle. He also had a stellar record against the Astros in his career, going 5-1 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts.
Verlander dominates in return to Texas
While Scherzer struggled, Verlander shined in his return to Texas, where he played for half a season in 2022 after being traded by the Mets. Verlander, who signed a four-year, $160 million contract with the Astros in the offseason, pitched six innings of one-run ball, striking out eight and walking none. He allowed only four hits, including a solo homer by Joey Gallo in the fourth inning.
Verlander improved his record to 15-6 with a 3.12 ERA this season, and lowered his career ERA against the Rangers to 2.67 in 25 starts. He also became the first pitcher in MLB history to reach 300 strikeouts in four consecutive seasons, as he now has 302 on the year.
Verlander and Scherzer were teammates for four seasons in Detroit from 2010 to 2013, and for half a season in New York in 2022. They both won Cy Young awards with the Tigers, and were part of the Mets’ rotation that reached the World Series last year. They had never faced each other as opposing starters before Wednesday’s game.
Astros clinch playoff spot with win
The Astros’ 7-1 victory over the Rangers not only spoiled Scherzer’s night, but also clinched their sixth consecutive playoff berth. The Astros improved their record to 88-54, the best in the American League, and increased their lead over the second-place Mariners to nine games in the AL West division.
The Astros have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball this season, leading the league in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They also have a formidable pitching staff, anchored by Verlander and Zack Greinke, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks at the trade deadline.
The Astros are aiming for their second World Series title in four years, after winning it all in 2020 and losing to the Mets in seven games last year. They have a balanced lineup that features MVP candidates Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, as well as All-Stars George Springer, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, and Yordan Alvarez.
The Rangers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives, as they fell to 77-65 with the loss. They are now half a game behind the Rays for the second wild card spot in the AL, and also trail the Indians by one game and the Athletics by two games. The Rangers have lost three straight games to the Astros, and will try to avoid a sweep on Thursday.