For a team currently ravaged by injuries, the Houston Astros have somehow contained their maladies to their position players, with right-hander Collin McHugh the lone pitcher among the six players who landed on the 10-day injured list in recent weeks.
So when right-hander Justin Verlander departed his start relatively early Thursday, antennae perked up. Verlander matched a season-low with 94 pitches while working into the seventh inning of an 8-7, 14-inning win over the Seattle Mariners, snapping his string of seven consecutive starts with at least 100 pitches.
Verlander threw a season-high 114 pitches on June 1 in a 5-1 win at Oakland, the second victory on a seven-game road trip Houston capped with a 6-1 mark.
The Astros, 9-0-1 over their last 10 series, will open an eight-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. Verlander will make his next turn in the rotation.
"From the get-go, it was a little bit touch and go for me," Verlander said. "I've told (Astros manager) A.J. (Hinch) since I've been here from Day 1 that I'll always be honest with him, and in that situation, he came out (and executed the pitching change). I told him I wasn't my best, so we made the pull. I wasn't surprised."
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.94 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in the series opener. Cole recorded a season-low four strikeouts in his previous start and did not factor in the decision as the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-4 on June 2.
He has faced the Orioles once in his career, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts over six innings on Sept. 28, 2018. Cole did not factor in the decision of a 2-1 Astros victory at Camden Yards.
Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (0-2, 5.06 ERA) will make his third start of the season and in succession for the Orioles on Friday. Ynoa opened this season with nine relief appearances for Baltimore, going 0-1 with a 5.60 ERA over 17 innings before joining the rotation on May 27 against the Detroit Tigers. He is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA since, surrendering 10 hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over nine innings. Ynoa will face the Astros for the first time in his career.
The Orioles, 0-11-1 over their last 12 series, were beaten up physically while dropping two of three to the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Baltimore lost catcher Pedro Severino (head contusion), second baseman Jonathan Villar (right thumb) and right fielder DJ Stewart (ankle) in its 2-1 loss Wednesday before left fielder Dwight Smith suffered an injury while crashing into the outfield wall making a running catch Thursday in a 4-3 defeat. Smith was placed in concussion protocol and did not make the trip with the team to Houston.
Stewart was placed on the injured list, with outfielder Stevie Wilkerson recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday. Severino and Villar, unlike Smith, are expected to avoid stints on the IL.
"I don't know if I've seen this many guys go down in two days," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "It's just obviously a little bit unlucky right now and we're pretty banged up."
--Field Level Media