OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Justin Verlander could hardly fathom his name being mentioned in the same breath as Cy Young.
“Pretty cool, man,” the Astros ace right-hander said.
Verlander struck out eight over eight innings and moved into a share of the major league lead with his ninth win and past Young on baseball’s all-time strikeouts list, pitching the Houston Astros past the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Saturday night.
Verlander (9-2), who had a four-start winning streak snapped by Boston his last time out, moved into a first-place tie with the Yankees’ Domingo German.
Verlander allowed one run on four hits and walked two, allowing only Stephen Piscotty’s second-inning homer. He also passed Cy Young (2,806) for 22nd place in major league history for strikeouts and now has 2,809.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Verlander said. “Sometimes when you’re playing this game, it’s got the unique ability to really kind of put things in perspective for you and as much as you try to just keep your head down and just keep pitching and not pay attention to whatever’s going on, any time Cy Young pops up on your radar and you’re associated with him it’s pretty special.”
Verlander’s biggest strikeout of the night was of Matt Olson to end the eighth with runners on first and second — moments after manager AJ Hinch had come to the mound to make sure Verlander could finish it.
“I trust him specifically to let me know if he emptied his tank on the (Matt) Chapman at-bat, and I got the answer I kind of expected and I wanted, but saw the visual he was locked in ready for the next hitter,” Hinch said.
Verlander hasn’t lost to the A’s in eight starts since Aug. 27, 2013, winning his last six decisions dating to Game 5 of the 2013 AL Division Series with Detroit.
Josh Reddick hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth for Houston. Reddick also had a two-run drive against his old Oakland team in a 9-1 Astros win here April 16.
Robinson Chirinos added a two-run drive in the ninth for the Astros.
Oakland starter Brett Anderson (6-4) exited in the sixth after manager Bob Melvin and an athletic trainer visited the mound despite the pitcher’s attempt to wave them off. The lefty, who had won his previous two starts, allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He felt something in his right side and was removed as a precaution but expects to make his next start.
The A’s thought they had added a run in the fifth when Reddick made a dive over the foul line in right field on Marcus Semien’s sharp line drive. The ball was ruled foul and Oakland challenged the call, which was upheld in 1 minute, 50 seconds. After Semien grounded into a fielder’s choice that ended the inning, he argued and was quickly tossed by first base umpire Alan Porter. It was the first career ejection for Semien at any level of baseball.
“Any time you’re facing the best pitcher in the league and you have a chance at getting an extra-base hit that ties the game, with your best hitter on deck, and it gets called foul, you’re going to be frustrated,” Semien said.
A’s slugger Khris Davis returned from a stint on the injured list with a bruised left hip and went 0 for 4.
The designated hitter, who led the majors with 48 home runs in 2018, went on the injured list May 24 retroactive to May 22 after getting hurt May 5 at Pittsburgh and initially trying to play through it.
Oakland’s Ramon Laureano ran his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a fifth-inning single. It’s the longest active streak in baseball and the best by an Oakland player this year.
Astros: Hinch said none of the long list of injured Astros are close to rehab assignment but had “done significant work” Saturday again. Nor will any of them — Jose Altuvé (left hamstring), Carlos Correa (cracked rib sustained during a massage), George Springer (hamstring), INF Aledmys Díaz (hamstring) and RHP Joe Smith (Achilles) be with the team at all for this road trip that goes through Thursday in Seattle. “We’ve got to push the gas pedal eventually,” Hinch said.
Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea, who pitched a no-hitter against Boston on April 21, 2018, before his season was cut short by September shoulder surgery, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session and is scheduled to face live hitters for 15 pitches Tuesday at Class-A Stockton. … Marco Estrada will play catch Monday for the first time since going on the injured list April with a lower back strain. He soon will begin a throwing program. … RHP Jharel Cotton injured his right hamstring while on a rehab outing with Stockton as he works back from Tommy John surgery and will be shut down for the immediate future, Melvin said. … LHP Jesus Luzardo threw 30 pitches over two simulated innings in Arizona.
RHP Gerrit Cole (5-5, 4.02 ERA) pitches the series finale for Houston, having gone 3-1 lifetime with 50 strikeouts to 12 walks in six career starts vs. the A’s. Oakland counters with RHP Chris Bassitt (3-1, 3.27) in his eighth start of the year looking to win consecutive outings for the first time in parts of five big league seasons. He missed all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery.