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Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander reacts after pitching a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 1, 2019. The Astros won 2-0.Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press

Justin Verlander had one thing on his mind after tossing a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

“Where is Toro?” the Houston Astros right-hander shouted through an ear-to-ear grin, referencing his Canadian teammate.

Verlander struck out 14 batters and allowed just one walk in Houston’s 2-0 win, and Abraham Toro – the rookie third baseman from Longueil, Que. – supplied the offence with a two-run homer that snapped a 0-0 tie in the top of the ninth inning.

Toro followed that up by nabbing the final out in Verlander’s third career no-hitter, tossing a ground ball from Bo Bichette to first base to end the game.

“I could not be happier for that kid,” the 36-year-old Verlander said. “Just an incredible moment for him, from Canada, able to do that and then get the last out as well. Such a special moment, and I’m happy I’m able to celebrate with him.”

Toro’s ninth-inning, two-out blast came after Alex Bregman greeted Blue Jays closer Ken Giles (2-3) with a bloop double down the right-field line.

Toro made his MLB debut with the Astros on Aug. 23. The 22-year-old switch-hitter has made seven starts since and Houston has gone 6-1 with him in the lineup. He hit his first homer in Houston against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Toro said. “The whole dugout was going crazy because everybody knew what was on the line.

“It’s been unreal. First no-hitter, first time playing in Canada as a professional. It was something I’ll remember forever.”

Verlander revealed his memory was spinning, too. He struck out 14 batters with one walk over 120 pitches to no-hit Toronto (55-83) for the second time in his career. His previous no-hitter came against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 7, 2011.

“I had memories of blowing a few in the past in the ninth inning, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about that,” he said.

“It means a lot. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that. I’ve come so close. Since I’ve had two, I think I’ve blown two in the ninth and another couple in the eighth. I was definitely aware of the history aspect of it. Definitely a big hurdle to get over and a very special moment for me.

The Astros’ Cy Young candidate leaned on his mid-to-high-90-mph fastball in the final inning. Verlander (17-5) coaxed Brandon Drury to ground out to short for the first out, then struck out Reese McGuire and got Bichette for the final out.

“I wanted to get him,” Bichette said on his final at-bat. “I thought I was seeing the ball really, really well. In that last at-bat, I made some good adjustments. I honestly thought I was going to get him, but then he made a really good pitch.

“He is who he is for a reason. He’s the most aggressive pitcher I’ve faced. He kept on coming after me no matter what. A lot of guys go through a lineup and get you out one way and then change it up for the next. He just kept on attacking and kept on attacking. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Obviously, his stuff was very good.”

Verlander struck out the side in the eighth inning and retired the final 25 batters he faced in a 79-strike performance.

Blue Jays opener Wilmer Font and relievers Sam Gaviglio and Zack Godley combined on a three-hit effort through eight innings. Font allowed a two-out walk to Bregman in the first and a leadoff double to Diaz in the second inning in his two runless innings. Gaviglio retired nine in a row in his three innings. Godley retired the first four batters he faced.

Earlier in the day, the Jays acquired a pair of pitchers to complete their trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder Eric Sogard. Toronto had traded Sogard to Tampa in July for players to be named later. The team announced Sunday that right-handers Edisson Gonzalez and Canadian Curtis Taylor completed the deal.

The Canadian Press

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