Astros get to Verlander for three long balls in fourth
By Christian Boutwell
HOUSTON -- The fourth inning Thursday against Detroit's Justin Verlander was all Houston seemed to need, starting with a game-changing, seven-pitch walk from Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
In the next at-bat after Altuve's free base, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa -- who returned to the starting lineup after two days rest while battling a sinus-induced illness -- hit a 379-foot, two-run home run off a sign above Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes.
Two batters later, first baseman Marwin Gonzalez matched Correa, striking another two-run homer to right field. Juan Centeno also hit a home run in the inning, making him the first Astros player to homer in his first two games with the team.
"It was amazing the way we did it," Gonzalez said. "[Verlander] was hitting his spots in the first three innings, making good pitches, but then Correa was patient in that at-bat and he started everything."
Correa, Gonzalez and Centeno's homers traveled a combined 1,099 feet, according to Statcast™.
"They got the team going," Correa said. "After that, our pitchers did a great job keeping us in the game and we were able to win the game."
The three long balls Verlander allowed marked the second time he allowed three home runs in the same inning in his career. The high-scoring inning was also the Astros' second three-home run inning this season. The other was May 14 against the Yankees in New York.
"We tried to ambush him early, which is dangerous," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of the Astros' success against Verlander in the fourth. "You look up and he has 20-plus pitches in three innings. He didn't have to go deep into the counts to get his outs.
"You go one way or the other with him; If you wait him out, he gets stronger. Honestly, I think the inning started with a really hard-earned walk by Jose Altuve. That set the tone for really good at-bats in a row."
The Astros added one run in the fifth before Jake Marisnick popped a go-ahead solo home run over the wall in center field in the eighth inning. Houston, which used five different pitchers, held Detroit to six runs, clinching the four-game set with a third win Thursday night.
"We played enough winning baseball to win the series, which is all you can ask for out of your team, but we didn't play perfect," Hinch said. "We've had a little sluggish stretch here, but it's hard to be disappointed when you leave the ballpark tonight having won three of four against the Tigers with the potent offense that they have."
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.