MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Facing Joe Mauer with runners at the corners and no outs, Justin Verlander reached back for a fastball that broke in to strike out the lefty-hitting Mauer.
Verlander said he yanked the four-seam fastball and was fortunate Mauer swung over it.
“Sometimes you get lucky,” Verlander said.
Verlander didn’t need much luck against Mauer and the Minnesota Twins. He struck out nine over seven dominant innings, Carlos Correa had two hits and the Houston Astros won 2-0 on Monday night.
The right-hander followed his strikeout of Mauer in the sixth by striking out Miguel Sano and getting Eddie Rosario to pop out, freezing up Minnesota’s rally on a chilly night with a first-pitch temperature of 35 degrees.
Verlander gave up three hits and walked one while helping the reigning World Series champions match their best 11-game start by going 9-2.
The right-hander improved to 11-1 in 14 games, including the playoffs, since being traded to Houston last season. He’s 7-0 with a 1.20 ERA in eight regular season starts since the trade.
“He dials it up like the best in the game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I don’t know too many guys that are better in those situations. There’s a lot of great pitchers around the league but when he can feel it and he smells that he needs to turn his game up, he really reaches deep and does some incredible things.”
Ken Giles earned his first save of the season for Houston by getting Byron Buxton to ground out with a runner on third in the ninth. Buxton hit a long foul ball during the at-bat that just went wide of the left field foul pole.
“Not overly concerned about it, just trying to get these guys to understand — they’re probably tired of hearing about it — but we just haven’t really settled into consistent at-bats and consistent play and conducive conditions, so you’ve just got to keep grinding,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You’ve got to hold your own the best you can until you start getting a better feel for playing day in and day out, which we haven’t done.”
Minnesota reliever Taylor Rogers (1-1) allowed a leadoff double to Correa in the sixth after coming in for starter Lance Lynn. Correa scored from third on rookie J.D. Davis’ liner to left field off reliever Trevor Hildenberger.
Davis entered the night 1 for 14 and drove in his first RBI of the season. Marwin Gonzalez added an RBI double in the eighth.
“It’s mental,” Davis said. “It’s going through some growing pains. I’m just glad in a tight situation I came through for the team and got on the board for Justin.”
Verlander allowed a one-out double in the first to Mauer and then retired eight in a row before walking Mauer to lead off the fourth. Mauer is hitting .329 in 79 at-bats his career against Verlander, the former Detroit Tigers’ ace who is 13-2 in his last 20 starts against the Twins.
Minnesota loaded the bases in the eighth, but Eddie Rosario grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch from reliever Chris Devenski.
LYNN’S NEW HOME
Lynn pitched five scoreless innings in his first start at Target Field but departed early because of a rising pitch count. After walking six batters in his first outing of the year, Lynn walked four on Monday. He struck out nine batters and left after 105 pitches.
“It feels miserable,” Lynn said. “I feel like I’ve gotten off to the worst start I’ve ever got off to in the big leagues. It needs to change real quick.”
Sunday’s postponement allowed Minnesota to push back a decision on a fifth starter until Friday. Molitor said a decision on who will fill the spot hasn’t been made.
The assumption has been that Phil Hughes would be activated off the disabled list to start, but Molitor said there is also a plan “B and C, at least.” Molitor said Hughes will throw another side session on Tuesday and the team is keeping him on track for consideration on Friday.
Astros: OF Josh Reddick was held out with an illness. ... Yuli Gurriel (left hand surgery) was expected to play first and third base in a rehab game at Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday, and he’s set to be the designated hitter there Wednesday.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (finger surgery) will be back in Minnesota on Tuesday to meet with team doctors. Molitor said he’s heard Santana wants to see if he can get approval to do more in his rehab.
Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 3.27 ERA) will make his third start of the season in Tuesday’s evening contest. Keuchel gave up two runs — one earned — in five innings his last start against Baltimore.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 2.51) will make his first start at Target Field as a member of the Twins. Odorizzi, who made three starts at the park with Tampa Bay, gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings at Pittsburgh last week.