Prior to Tuesday night, the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers hadn't opposed each other since 2016. However, it didn't take long for both teams to become well acquainted with the strengths of the other.
The Astros will look to complete a sweep of the brief interleague series Wednesday night, when they host the Brewers in the finale of the two-game set.
The Astros hit four homers Tuesday night but had to withstand a late rally by the Brewers to hang on for a 10-8 win. Houston led 8-3 after five innings and 10-4 after the seventh before Milwaukee came within a batter of sending the tying run to the plate in the ninth, when Yasmani Grandal hit a three-run homer.
"I think when you play the Brewers, you have to out-slug them," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said afterward. "I walked into the day thinking we're going to have to out-hit them. They're very, very potent."
Grandal's homer was the third of the game for the Brewers, who lead the National League with 117 round-trippers. Twenty-five of those have been hit by major league home run leader Christian Yelich, who also went deep Tuesday.
"I could not see Yelich hit again and be fine," Hinch said of the reigning NL Most Valuable Player. "He is really good."
Of course, the Astros aren't so bad either. Despite the absence of All-Stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, all of whom are on the injured list, Houston has hit 110 homers, the fourth most in the major leagues, and they hold a nine-game lead in the American League West.
"That's a good team over there," Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw, who also homered Tuesday night, told reporters. "They're missing three key guys and they're still putting up 10 (runs). It's probably the most complete team in the AL.
"It was a good test for us, to see where we're at. We came up a little bit short tonight, but we made it close."
The Brewers will face another stiff test against Verlander, who has cemented his Hall of Fame candidacy by going 30-11 with a 2.32 ERA in 53 starts since the Astros acquired him from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31, 2017. He helped pitch Houston to the 2017 World Series title.
Verlander didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start last Thursday, when he allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings in the Astros' 8-7, 14-inning win over the Seattle Mariners. It was just the fifth time in 14 starts this season that Verlander allowed more than two runs.
Woodruff continued his emergence as a quality starter last Friday, when he won his seventh straight decision after allowing three runs and tying a career high with 10 strikeouts over six innings as Milwaukee beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-4. The 26-year-old has a 3.34 ERA in 10 starts since his most recent loss on April 10.
Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers. Woodruff has never faced the Astros.
The game Wednesday will be just the eighth between the Astros and Brewers since Houston moved to the AL following the 2012 season. Milwaukee will host a two-game series Sept. 2-3.
--Field Level Media