Astros’ Justin Verlander out for season with injury

The Astros’ hopes for a second World Series championship suffered a devastating blow Sunday. Their ace is gone, and without him, their pitching staff seems in ruins.

Houston Astros ace right-hander Justin Verlander will miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to an elbow injury, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Verlander pitched Friday on Opening Day for the Astros against the Seattle Mariners. His outing saw him complete six innings, strike out seven, and hold Seattle’s lineup to three hits and two runs. But it appears the eight-time All-Star will miss the remainder of the shortened 60-game season.

There was no indication in Verlander’s performance or velocity that he was injured during his 2020 debut: he averaged 94.9 mph with his heater, according to Statcast. For reference, last season he clocked in at 94.6 on average. Verlander recorded 300 strikeouts in 223 innings last season while winning American League Cy Young honors.

Verlander was originally expected to miss the start of the season in March after he suffered a strained lat. At the time, we wrote that a long-term absence from Verlander or fellow veteran Zack Greinke would “risk setting off a chain reaction that will see the Astros overexpose the rest of their starters, their depth, and their bullpen.”

The rest of the Astros rotation at present includes Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Josh James, and Framber Valdez. Houston has multiple starting candidates on the injured list, such as Rogelio Armenteros, Austin Pruitt, Jose Urquidy, and Brad Peacock. That could leave them picking between Forrest Whitley, Cionel Perez, and a few other younger options as fill-ins.

Verlander, 37, has been one of the most reliable starters in the game. He had linked together four consecutive seasons in which he started at least 33 times. He’s under contract for an additional season, as he’s set to make another $33 million in 2021.

Over part of 16 big-league seasons, Verlander has started 454 games. He has a career 3.33 ERA (129 ERA+), 3.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 71.6 Wins Above Replacement.