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Astros' Verlander allows 2 runs over 6 innings in season debut

Mitchell Layton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justin Verlander allowed two runs and four hits over six innings in the three-time Cy Young Award winner's season debut for the Houston Astros, a 5-3 victory against the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

The 41-year-old right-hander, who began the season on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, struck out four and walked none, throwing 50-of-78 pitches for strikes. Verlander averaged 94.3 mph with 35 four-seam fastballs and induced five groundouts. The nine-time All-Star retired the side in order four times.

Verlander had made a pair of minor league injury rehabilitation starts.

"I have been working on a lot," Verlander said. "When you don't have as many starts you have to find it quicker. I have been thinking about a lot of things mechanically and thankfully I was able to execute today."

A key pickoff by Verlander caught Ildemaro Vargas in the third inning.

"Just an instinct," Verlander smiled. "Just a crafty old vet trying to get an out any way you can."

Vargas hit an RBI single in the third and Riley Adams homered in the fourth, cutting Washington’s deficit to 4-2.

"Command and control was on," Astros manager Joe Espada said. "The shape of his slider was good. He threw a couple of good changeups, fastball up to 94 mph and there’s more there in the tank that eventually will come. But for him he can just hit his spots and he will keep you off balance."

Verlander retired his first eight batters before Adams doubled off the base of the wall in right-center field.

"He was excellent," catcher Yainer Diaz said through an interpreter. "He was executing his pitches and following the plan that we had. This is something we are accustomed to seeing from him. Obviously, he was able to execute the curveball wherever he wanted to, but I thought all his pitches were very good today."

Verlander was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA last year for the New York Mets and Houston, who acquired him ahead of the trade deadline.

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