Astros, Diamondbacks to settle series in finale

PHOENIX — Arizona and Houston have showed a little bit of a lot of things in the first two games of their weekend interleague series.

What will happen when Justin Verlander goes out to face Matt Koch in the finale today?

We can hardly wait.

Arizona and Houston are two of the six 20-win teams in the majors this season, and so far they have shown the skill and the smarts that have got them there.

–Houston right-hander Gerrit Cole set a career-high with 16 strikeouts in his first career shutout Friday, when the top five in the Astros’ order had 11 hits and scored all the runs in an 8-0 victory.

–Arizona catcher Jeff Mathis beat out a bunt single to open a game-winning rally Saturday, a bunt so well placed down the third base line that the Astros had no play. A fielder’s choice and two walks later, A.J. Pollock hit a broken-bat one-hopper into the hole between third base and shortstop that Alex Bregman tipped with a dive but could not corral as the winning run scored in a 4-3 walkoff.

And it was not all baseball. Before Saturday’s game, Jose Altuve and David Peralta hosted a clinic attended by about 100 youngsters in Phoenix at which they hit, signed autographs and collected baseball equipment to distribute to kids in their native Venezuela.

“It’s life-changing,” said Altuve, who was gifted a glove when he was five or six. “Everything I can do to help my country, I’m going to be really happy to do it.”

Arizona’s victory broke a three-game losing streak, their first time they had lost more than one in a row.

“It was a really good one, especially when you give up a two-run lead late,” said Arizona manager Torey Lovullo after seeing the Astros tie the game with two runs in the eighth inning.

“You rally around one another and take team at-bats and do team things to win the game.”

On a lighter note, Houston reliever Collin McHugh became the first player on either team to use the bullpen cart to ride into the mound when summoned into game. The D-backs added carts for both bullpens this season, but no Arizona pitcher has used it.

“They provide it for us, so I figured give it a shot,” said McHugh, who has been a starter until this season. “I’m so new to this whole bullpen thing that I don’t think I have much of a routine to deviate from.”

Verlander (4-0, 1.13 ERA) is first in the American League and third in in the majors in ERA, and has six quality starts, one short of teammate Cole and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. Verlander has not given up more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts and has not allowed a run in four of them.

His peripherals are even more eye-popping — 62 strikeouts, 24 hits and eight walks in 47 2/3 innings. He is third in majors with 63 strikeouts, behind Max Scherzer and Cole, and struck out a season-high 14 in eight scoreless innings his last outing Tuesday, when he gave up three hits but did not get a decision when the Yankees scored four runs in the ninth.

Acquired with seconds to spare at the July 31 trade deadline last year, Verlander is 9-0 with a 1.10 ERA in 12 regular-season starts with the Astros. He was 4-1 in six postseason appearances, five starts, with Houston.

Verlander was 1-0 against the Diamondbacks last year and is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA against them in three career starts, all while with Detroit. He has won both starts with a 4.26 ERA at Chase Field.

Koch is 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in three starts — two quality — since taking over for Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) in the rotation. He has given up three earned runs in 11 innings of his two home starts, although he did not get a decision in either. He has never faced Houston in his 12 major league appearances.