Tigers complete 4-game sweep

HOUSTON (AP) – Detroit starter Justin Verlander made another no-hit bid Sunday against the Houston Astros.

However, Verlander was facing a high pitch count, too, and in the seventh, Houston finally got one to fall.

Verlander, who has already pitched two no-hitters in his career, held Houston hitless until the seventh inning and the Tigers romped past the overmatched Astros 9-0 Sunday to complete a four-game sweep.

Verlander (4-2) struck out nine. The former AL MVP and Cy Young winner has a 1.55 ERA this season.

“I actually felt really calm out there,” Verlander said. “Obviously, it’s a bit of a letdown to give up a hit. Not that it was easy by any means, but I felt calm.”

Carlos Pena got Houston’s first hit, a single with one out in the seventh over the head of second baseman Omar Infante, who was playing in shallow right with the shift on, and in front of outfielder Don Kelly. Carlos Corporan followed with a single.

“He guessed right,” Verlander said of Pena’s at bat. “A lot of times in this game, I had thrown offspeed in fastball counts. He thought otherwise. I threw a fastball, and he did a great job of getting on top of the fastball that was up in the zone.”

Pena said Verlander was good, mixing up speeds.

“It’s always seems like he has something up his sleeve and he can pull it out at any time,” Pena said. “He’ll start you off with a changeup, then a curveball, and then he’ll throw one for 100 (mph) right inside. He is very unpredictable. He is very impressive.”

Verlander came close to joining rare company. Only five pitchers in major league history have thrown three or more no-hitters: Nolan Ryan leads with seven, Sandy Koufax threw four and Bob Feller, Cy Young and 1880s pitcher Larry Corcoran each had three.

Verlander, who used a good mix of changeup and fastball throughout, said this attempt at throwing a no-hitter was different than others because he threw close to 30 pitches in the first inning.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he didn’t think Verlander would get a chance to finish the game because of the high pitch count.

“There were just too many early that it wasn’t going to work out late,” Leyland said. “I had 125 (pitches) with a possible 130 at max. It just didn’t look like he was going to get there. So I don’t worry about stuff that I don’t have to worry about any more. I would have done what I felt was the best thing to do for Justin Verlander’s career and the Detroit Tigers. I would have been caught up in a no-hitter like everyone else and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can’t do a silly thing.”

Prince Fielder homered and drove in four runs. Andy Dirks had four hits, including a home run. Brayan Pena and Omar Infante also homered.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Fielder said. “Any time you score a lot of runs, it is fun, and plus our pitching has been outstanding, so everything is working really well right now.”

Detroit has won nine of the last 10 and swept a four-game road series for the first time since taking four at Kansas City on May 22-25, 2006.

Houston, which has the worst record in the majors, has lost sixth straight and 10 of its last 11. Philip Humber (0-7) gave up eight runs in four innings.

A day after routing Houston 17-2, Detroit scored twice in the first inning and five more in the second. Fielder hit his eighth homer in the first. Pena homered in the second, Dirks hit an RBI single and Fielder added a two-run single.