Matt Koch is first to face different MVPs in consecutive starts since 1947
Five days after taking the mound against Clayton Kershaw, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Koch was put up to another difficult task.
He faced Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros on Sunday, who had a 1.13 ERA with four wins coming into the day.
Koch was the first pitcher to go head-to-head against two MVPs in consecutive starts since 1947, according to Stats LLC.
Both times, Koch performed admirably.
Verlander was nearly unhittable through five innings, giving up two hits – both to Daniel Descalso – before surrendering a pair of runs on an A.J. Pollock triple in the sixth inning.
That was the only time Verlander was in trouble, and it gave him his first loss of the season.
While Koch had gotten into jams earlier in the game, he was consistently able to fight his way through them.
Twice, these jams including Alex Bregman, who looked as though he would be a thorn in Koch’s side after hitting a home run in the second inning to put the Astros on the board.
However, Koch was able to get the better of him later in the game.
With two outs and a runner on second in the fourth inning, Bregman popped out to third base.
In the fifth inning, Marwin Gonzalez got to first base on a bunt and then advanced to second on a grounder to second base. He moved to third on an infield single by Verlander.
With two outs, Koch forced a George Springer groundout to shortstop.
Reigning MVP Jose Altuve hit a triple to lead off the sixth inning. Koch hit the next batter by pitch.
He followed this up by striking out Josh Reddick – one of Koch’s three Ks of the day – before Bregman stepped to the plate.
Koch got the better of him, forcing the third baseman to ground into a double play and get out of the jam to keep the Astros’ lead at 1-0.
In the next inning, Pollock and the D-backs took the lead.
While Koch didn’t freeze up batters, he was efficient, needing only 76 pitches to get through 6.1 innings. He threw 48 strikes and didn’t walk a single hitter.
The way he battled Bregman was particularly impressive, not backing down after the early home run.
That’s been the theme for Koch this season – whether he’s facing a big hitter or is matched up against a former Cy Young and MVP winner on the opposing mound, Koch has remained calm and collected.
Over his first five games – four of which were starts – he went 25.1 innings and allowed six earned runs, good for a 2.13 ERA. The D-backs have won three of his four starts.
With injuries to starters Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray, Koch could become an integral part of the rotation.
With the question marks for the fifth starter, the D-backs are going to need him to be.