Astros’ Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander have knack for not loading bases

Until the third inning of Monday’s Astros-Rays game, Gerrit Cole had been among a small group of starters who had not allowed the bases loaded this season.

It is a testament to how much of Cole’s success in his first season with the Astros is due to his ability to strand runners and prevent rallies from starting.

There are four starters left who have not allowed the bases loaded: Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Fernando Romero and – a teammate of Cole’s – Justin Verlander.

More merciless than Cole, Verlander has faced 18 batters with multiple runners on base. He has surrendered a hit once.

“They don’t walk guys and they don’t give up hits, so that would be my first expert analysis,” A.J. Hinch said, pointing out the obvious but noteworthy point about his two best starters this season. “But it is rare for guys to give up minimal damage and minimal base runners. They don’t hurt themselves. It centers around walks.”

Walks are what hurt Cole on Monday. He walked three consecutive batters to load the bases, but he recovered to retire 13 of his final 14 batters and complete seven innings.

The experience, Hinch said, taught Cole: “Yeah, don’t walk people. That’s a good lesson.”

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