HOUSTON -- After compiling 380 starts over 12-plus season with the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander will face his former team for the first time on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Verlander (9-4, 2.05 ERA) built a Hall of Fame resume while pitching for the Tigers, winning 183 games and earning Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young, and American League Most Valuable Player (both in 2011) honors in a Detroit uniform. He famously mulled a trade to Houston (64-34) at the waiver deadline in 2017, making a last-minute decision that ultimately yielded the one thing that was missing from his time in the Motor City: A World Series championship.
"It's going to be interesting," Verlander said. "I think it'll be a little different. I can already tell I feel a little differently about it than a normal start, but it's not the same as if it would have been at Comerica (Park). That's something a little different, but I'm looking forward to it.
"I think once I'm out there it's going to be business as usual but right now I can tell I feel a little differently about it. I know these guys so well, a lot of them I still text with most of the guys. That's not something I normally do with teams that I'm going against. We'll see if I have a little more nerves Sunday morning than maybe for a typical regular-season start. But once I step on the mound, it's game on."
Left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.74 ERA) will start the series finale for the Tigers.
Liriano did not factor into the decision in his last start on Monday at Tampa Bay after allowing seven runs on eight hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings.
He is 2-1 with a 4.58 ERA over three career starts against the Astros, for whom he spent part of the 2017 season following his acquisition from Toronto at the non-waiver deadline. Liriano last faced the Astros on July 6, 2017, allowing three runs on nine hits and one walk with four strikeouts over six innings in a 7-4 win at Rogers Centre.
Detroit right fielder Nick Castellanos recorded his 35th multi-hit game of the season in the Tigers' 9-1 loss on Saturday, finishing 2-for-4 and bumping his season hit total to 115. He is tied for the third-most hits prior to the All-Star break in franchise history, with Ian Kinsler (2014), Magglio Ordonez (2007), and Ivan Rodriguez (2004) each reaching that benchmark.
Castellanos has been the bright spot for a struggling Tigers' offense, one that entered Saturday with a major-league high 12 shutout losses.
Castellanos scored the lone run for Detroit (40-57), coming home on a James McCann double after his leadoff single in the sixth set the table. That he continues to produce even while opposing pitchers exercise caution is a credit to his skill.
"It's pretty amazing that he's still getting hits; he does get pitched around," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's when he gets himself in trouble trying to force it because he knows he needs to hit. But he's a good hitter, he's a really good hitter. He's got length to his swing, he can get to a lot of balls, and when they make a mistake he hits it pretty hard."
The Astros are going for their 10th win in 13 games after Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis hit solo homers off Michael Fulmer Saturday.