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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander leaves start after just three innings and 60 pitches

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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander left his start on Sunday after just three innings and 60 pitches.

Verlander struck out six — including all three in the first inning — and allowed three hits and one walk to the Baltimore Orioles before departing. The game was scoreless at the time.

Astros reliever Seth Martinez started warming up in the bullpen while Verlander was still on the mound, and entered the game to start the fourth inning after throwing 16 pitches on Saturday.

Verlander has had a terrific season as Houston has comfortably sat in first place in the American League West for most of it. The 39-year-old veteran entered Sunday’s start with a 16-3 record, a 1.87 ERA, an 0.85 WHIP and 148 strikeouts. Through Saturday, the Astros were 81-47, and despite a mild two-game skid, were still 11.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in the division.

Verlander opened the third by allowing an infield single to Robinson Chirinos and a walk to Cedric Mullins. He escaped with a strikeout of Adley Rutschman before inducing a double play off the bat of Anthony Santander.

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