SEATTLE -- Justin Verlander became the major league's first 13-game winner, striking out nine and topping 99 mph in his final inning to lead the Houston Astros over the Seattle Mariners 3-1 on Saturday.
Verlander (13-3), 39, allowed four hits in seven innings to win his fifth straight start and lower his ERA to 1.86, second in the American League to Shane McClanahan's 1.71 for Tampa Bay.
Verlander, who missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, averaged 96.3 mph with his fastball, 1.4 mph above his season average coming in.
"I feel like I haven't been able to let it go like that in a long time," Verlander said.
He said he was throwing the ball recently on an off-day and tried a different arm path. He saw positive results in his last start before the All-Star break.
"It was a solid one tick up," he said. "I was able to do that again today and a lot more times, so I'm definitely happy and a bit surprised. Surprise is the wrong word -- I was hopeful that this this could happen."
Verlander retired 15 straight between Adam Frazier's second-inning single and Carlos Santana's ninth home run, which cut the lead to 2-1 in the seventh. Seattle loaded the bases on walks by Eugenio Suarez and pinch-hitter Kyle Lewis around Frazier's single, and Verlander struck out No. 9 hitter Sam Haggerty on his 101st and final pitch, clocked at 97.4 mph.
"I remember the greats, Bob Gibson and [Tom] Seaver, and I told him, 'You know, when they were in trouble, they knew how to pitch out of trouble,'" Houston manager Dusty Baker said. "The mark of a good pitcher is figuring out how to get either a double play or a popup or a strikeout, and I tell you, that one that was great. I mean, we needed that. He needed it. We're operating on fumes today, so I'll say that was a great victory."
Verlander has allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of his past eight starts. He also has three consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts, making him the oldest to do it since a 44-year-old Randy Johnson did it in three straight in 2008, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Houston is 27-9 since June 12 and ended the Mariners' streak of eight consecutive winning series.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.