The Astros, who won a franchise-record 107 games for the best record in MLB this season, started their quest for a second World Series title in three years against the Rays, who defeated the Oakland Athletics 5-1 in the AL wild-card game this week.
Verlander allowed only one single and recorded eight strikeouts across seven scoreless innings to improve to 8-0 in 12 career ALDS appearances. He has a 14-7 career record in postseason games.
The Rays got their only hit off Verlander when Brandon Lowe hit a soft single to start the fifth inning. The Astros ace ended his day by striking out the side in the seventh.
Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow gave up three singles before he walked Josh Reddick on four pitches to begin the fifth. He struck out George Springer, but allowed a two-run shot off the bat of Jose Altuve that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.
The Astros plated two more runs in the fifth after an error by Lowe. Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a high popup to shallow right field that Lowe pursued from second base as right fielder Austin Meadows chased. Meadows pulled up, and the ball bounced off Lowe's glove.
Houston added two runs in the seventh after Alex Bregman walked and stole second base. Yordan Alvarez and Gurriel each smacked RBI doubles to make it 6-0.
Rays pinch hitter Eric Sogard belted an RBI single with two outs in the eighth and scored on a double by Meadows to trim the lead to 6-2.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Saturday night in Houston.