Sharp Koch leads Diamondbacks to 3-1 win over Astros

PHOENIX (AP) — Matt Koch outpitched Justin Verlander to become the first pitcher to beat MVPs in consecutive starts in at least 71 years, lifting the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Koch (2-0) outlasted Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in his previous start and faced Verlander to become the first pitcher since 1947 to face different MVPs in consecutive starts.

The Arizona right-hander gave up a solo homer to Alex Bregman in the second inning and escaped a jam in the sixth to get the MVP sweep.

Koch allowed a run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Diamondbacks, who have yet to lose a series this season.

A.J. Pollock lined a run-scoring triple off Verlander (4-1) in the sixth inning. He was awarded home on an obstruction call after getting tangled with Bregman as the throw got away to end Verlander’s regular-season winning streak at 11 games.

Verlander had been 9-0 during the regular season with the Astros since a midseason trade from Detroit last year.

Verlander allowed two runs — one earned — and three hits and struck out eight in six innings.

Pollock added a run-scoring single off Joe Smith in the eighth inning and Brad Boxberger worked around two runners in the ninth for his 11th straight save to start the season.

Koch won his previous start by outpitching Kershaw, allowing three runs and four hits in five innings. The right-hander’s road didn’t get any easier on Sunday.

In facing Verlander, Koch was the first pitcher to face different MVPs in consecutive starts since the Chicago White Sox’s Ed Lopat went against Detroit’s Hal Newhouser and the St. Louis Browns’ Dizzy Dean in 1947, according to STATS LLC. Dean, a former St. Louis Cardinals ace, had been out of the majors for six years when he came back to make that one final start for the lowly Browns, on the final day of the season.

Koch was sharp early other than Bregman’s solo homer and induced an inning-ending double play after Houston had runners on first and third in the sixth.

Verlander dominated his previous start, striking out 14 while allowing three hits in eight scoreless innings. He kept piling up the strikeouts and stranded the tying run at third in the fifth inning by blowing a 97 mph fastball past David Peralta.

TRAINER’S TABLE

Diamondbacks RHP Shelby Miller is expected to throw two innings in an extended spring training game Friday in his return from elbow surgery. He will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel, Monday’s starter at Oakland, gave up three home runs and six runs in seven innings in a loss the previous time he faced the A’s on April 27.

Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Godley is 2-3 with a 3.92 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers headed into Tuesday’s start against them.

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