HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched three scoreless innings before departing because of right calf discomfort, and the Houston Astros used five relievers to close out a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
Alex Bregman homered for AL West-leading Houston, and Yuli Gurriel had a two-run single. The Astros dropped the first two games of the weekend set after winning four in a row.
It was the shortest outing of the season for Verlander, one of the front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award.
Houston manager Dusty Baker said Verlander was going in for imaging on Monday, adding that he said he felt it when he went to cover first base during a rundown on a double play that ended the top of the third.
Verlander had Tommy John surgery in 2020 and missed all of last season.
“It was his calf, and that’s the best of bad news,” Baker said. “We’re glad it wasn’t anything to do with his elbow or arm or anything like that, so we will just have to wait until he has the imaging tomorrow.”
The 39-year-old Verlander allowed three hits, struck out six and walked one. The right-hander had already left the stadium before the media was allowed into the clubhouse after the game, according to team officials.
“He threw that pitch, and then, he came off the field with the third out, and he just went down the tunnel,” Baker said.
Verlander threw 60 pitches, 39 for strikes. He allowed consecutive singles to Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman in the first, and then struck out the next three batters.
“These things happen,” Baker said. “They can happen to anybody on the field. Like I said, I was just happy it wasn’t his elbow. One quick move, and it happened.”
Verlander lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.84. He leads the AL with 16 wins.
Houston’s bullpen then allowed one run and four hits over six innings. Ryne Stanek (2-1) tossed a perfect seventh for the win, and Rafael Montero worked a rocky ninth for his ninth save.
“We didn’t want it to go into extra innings, that’s for sure because we only had (Will) Smith left in our bullpen,” Baker said. “These guys did a great job today.”
Baltimore got on the board on Austin Hays’ RBI single in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Kyle Stowers followed with another base hit, but Montero struck out Rougned Odor to end it.
“We did not swing the bat off the bullpen,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s a good bullpen. It’s the best bullpen or one of the top two for a reason. Just didn’t get anything going, unfortunately.”
Gurriel snapped a scoreless tie with his two-run single through the right side in the seventh.
Orioles starter Austin Voth walked Alex Bregman to start the inning, and Kyle Tucker greeted Bryan Baker with a double. Two batters later, Gurriel singled through a drawn-in infield.
Bregman connected in the eighth, sending a drive to left-center for his 20th homer.
Voth (4-2) allowed one run and one hit in six-plus innings. Voth has allowed three runs or fewer in every start this season. It was his first loss since June 29.
“You pitch well, and you lose all the time,” Voth said. “Sometimes you hit, sometimes we can’t get any hits to get the bats rolling. You’ve got to focus on you and on the mound and what you can do to help the team out.”
Orioles: RHP Tyler Wells (left oblique strain) was expected to throw a simulated game either Sunday or Monday, Hyde said.
Astros: DH Yordan Alvarez was out of the lineup after getting treatment on his left hand, Baker said, adding that he was hopeful Alvarez would be ready on Tuesday. There had been no discussion of a trip to the injured list for Alvarez, Baker said. ... OF Chas McCormick (dislocated right pinkie) swung the bat on Sunday, but his finger was still swollen, Baker said.
Orioles: Following an off day, Baltimore starts a three-game series at the Guardians on Tuesday. RHP Spenser Watkins (4-4, 3.96 ERA) is slated to start for the Orioles opposite RHP Cal Quantrill (10-5, 3.59 ERA).
Astros: Following an off day, Houston opens a two-game series at the Rangers on Tuesday. Framber Valdez (13-4, 2.65 ERA) will start Tuesday for the Astros.