Astros ace Justin Verlander suffers calf injury, will undergo MRI

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Houston Astros All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander will undergo an MRI Monday after exiting Sunday’s start against the Baltimore Orioles after three innings due to right calf discomfort.

Verlander, the MLB leader in earned run average (1.84), was replaced by Seth Martinez to start the bottom of the fourth inning with the game still scoreless. The 2011 American League MVP struck out six while holding the Orioles to three hits before departing after 60 pitches.

The 39-year-old missed the entire 2021 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has been healthy throughout this season, having thrown 152 innings while posting a stellar 16-3 record in 24 starts.

"We were glad it wasn’t anything to do with his elbow or arm or anything like that," Astros manager Dusty Baker said following his team’s 3-1 victory. "We’ll just have to wait until he has the imaging [Monday]."

Verlander has anchored a Houston starting rotation that leads the majors in innings pitched and entered the day with a combined 3.09 ERA, which trails only the NL-leading Los Angeles Dodgers for the best in baseball.

The nine-time All-Star is a leading candidate to claim a third career AL Cy Young Award, as his 16 wins are tied for the MLB lead and he’s limited opposing hitters to a .512 OPS while recording 154 strikeouts.

If Verlander is to miss extended time, the AL-leading Astros could return to a five-man rotation after often using six starters following Lance McCullers’ return from a forearm injury earlier this month.

In addition to McCullers, Houston still has 2022 All-Star Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier as healthy available starting options.