By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) — The only comparison Justin Verlander could come up with for his Houston Astros debut was opening day.
The nerves. The excitement. The desire to be at his best.
“The unknown. Don’t really want to let everyone down. New team,” Verlander said. “But these guys have made the process pretty easy on me so far fitting in and making me feel right at home as quickly as possible.”
Verlander could find a home anywhere with the kind of performance he delivered Tuesday night, throwing six strong innings to beat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 after Cameron Maybin hit a two-run homer in the seventh for Houston’s first hit.
It was the first time in 381 career regular-season starts that Verlander, a six-time All-Star, pitched for someone other than the Detroit Tigers. Even if his uniform colors were slightly different, his fastball and ability to dominate a game were the same.
It wasn’t Verlander at his best. But it was a very good beginning in the latest chapter of his career, with the top team in the American League.
“To get to know him, we have to do it quickly. And to see his mannerisms, to see how he competes, he throws every pitch with a purpose,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “I don’t think he had great feel for his breaking ball early in the count. Had a really good fastball and he went to it.”
With fiancée Kate Upton in the stands, Verlander (11-8) allowed six hits and struck out seven while completing six innings for the 10th straight start.
His only costly mistake was a 3-2 pitch that Kyle Seager hit for a home run leading off the fourth. Seattle threatened in the sixth when Robinson Cano opened the inning by hitting a liner off Verlander’s right wrist. Nelson Cruz followed with a single, but Seager grounded into a double play and Mitch Haniger struck out with Cano on third to end the threat.
The final pitch from the 2011 AL MVP was a 99 mph fastball that fanned Haniger.
“That was as impressive a finish of an outing as we could ask for, especially in the big moments where the inning starts out with runners on base,” Hinch said. “He never gets out of control.”
Joe Musgrove threw two innings of scoreless relief and Ken Giles pitched the ninth for his 29th save.
With all the attention on Verlander’s first game for a team other than the Tigers, it was another deadline acquisition that sent Houston to its sixth straight victory. Maybin’s drive with one out in the seventh snapped a 1-all tie.
Maybin arrived on Aug. 31 after being claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.
“This team has been playing great team baseball and everybody has something to do with the success. I’m just trying to fit in to the mold of trying to help out,” Maybin said.
Seattle starter Ariel Miranda threw 112 pitches over six hitless innings that included six walks — three of which led to Houston’s first run in the third on Alex Bregman’s sacrifice fly.
James Pazos (4-5) relieved in the seventh and walked Brian McCann with one out. Pazos was replaced by Emilio Pagan, who left a 3-2 pitch in the middle of the plate and Maybin hit his eighth homer of the season.
“I thought Miranda pitched his heart out tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He gave us everything he had. He tweaked his ankle early in the game and he hung in there.”
Houston finished with two hits and won for the 15th time in club history when getting two or fewer. The last came on May 1, 2016, when the Astros beat Oakland 2-1 with just two hits.
Carlos Beltran returned to the Astros’ lineup after missing the previous four games with a foot injury. Beltran was 0 for 3 with a run scored. Hinch said the club hopes to have OF Jake Marisnick back in the next few days as well. Marisnick has been slowed by a groin injury.
The Mariners will move right-hander Mike Leake back one game and have him start on Friday against the Angels. That means Andrew Moore will get the start in the series finale against the Astros on Wednesday. Servais said the reason for the change was based on matchups. Leake has faced the Angels only once in his career. He was 6-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 12 career games against the Astros.
Astros: Lance McCullers (7-3) will be activated from the disabled list to make his first start since July 30. McCullers was sidelined for more than a month by back discomfort.
Mariners: Moore (1-3) will slide back into the rotation. He hasn’t started for Seattle since July 26 and his last appearance for the Mariners came on Aug. 11 out of the bullpen.
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