HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander held Houston hitless until the seventh inning and the Detroit Tigers romped past the Astros 9-0 Sunday for a four-game sweep.
Verlander, who has already pitched two no-hitters in his career, made a bid for another one against the overmatched Astros in their sixth straight loss.
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.
Verlander (4-2) struck out nine and left after the seventh. The former AL MVP and Cy Young winner has a 1.55 ERA this season.
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.
Prince Fielder homered and drove in four runs. Andy Dirks had four hits, including a home run. Brayan Pena and Omar Infante also homered.
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 10 of its last 11. Philip Humber (0-7) gave up eight runs in four innings.
The Astros managed just a pair of runners through six innings, with Jason Castro drawing a walk in the first and Pena walking in the fourth.
The no-hitter remained intact to start the sixth as Marwin Gonzalez, who broke up Yu Darvish’s perfect game try with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on April 2, reached on an error by Fielder at first base. Gonzalez was erased when Robbie Grossman lined out to Fielder, who doubled off Gonzalez.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera kept the Astros hitless to begin the fifth, making a diving stop to his left on Brandon Laird’s grounder, then rolling over and throwing to first from his back for the out.
The best opportunity for a Houston hit before that came in the fourth when Fernando Martinez hit a drive to the warning track in left that Dirks caught in the corner.
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.
Humber has lost all seven of his starts this season, and he has only made it past the fifth inning in one of his last four outings.
NOTES: Detroit C Alex Avila was unavailable because of an illness, manager Jim Leyland said. … Houston LHP Erik Bedard has been moved from the rotation to the bullpen. He threw 3 1-3 innings in relief Sunday, giving up one run and two hits with three strikeouts. Houston will decide on Bedard’s spot in the rotation, which would come up again Friday, midweek, manager Bo Porter said. … Houston players wore ”Los Astros” jerseys Sunday in recognition of Cinco de Mayo.
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