Oct 20, 2022 TEXAS — When discussing Justin Verlander’s performance in the Astros’ 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night, the Astros quickly ran out of glowing adjectives.
The Astros clubhouse was filled with cries of “first-ballot Hall of Famer” and “ace” after Verlander pitched six innings and struck out 11 batters while giving up just one earned run.
The 39-year-old Verlander had just pitched one of the worst postseason performances of his brilliant career, allowing six runs on ten hits in game one of the division series against the Seattle Mariners. This is what really set apart his performance.
Yordan Alvarez’s three-run, walk-off home slam helped the Astros defeat Seattle, but Verlander was clearly out of practice and lacked command. Martin Maldonado, the catcher, was unsurprised that his ace rapidly got back to form when he was most needed.
According to Maldonado, “This is exactly what I expected from him.” “For that reason, he is a Hall of Famer.”
Manager Dusty Baker continued, “He’s not just physically powerful, which you can see, but he’s psychologically strong.” “This person is mentally tough.” I mean, this guy can dial it up when he’s down and out and it seems like you got him in trouble.
After Harrison Bader hit a solo shot to put the Astros behind in the second inning of their game against the Yankees on Wednesday, Verlander recovered and retired his next 11 batters in a row, striking out nine of them.
With his 11 total strikeouts, Verlander set an MLB record by having his ninth postseason game with double-digit strikeouts. With 219 career strikeouts in the postseason, Verlander surpassed Clayton Kershaw’s previous record of 213, becoming the new postseason strikeout king.
Lance McCullers Jr., another starter, remarked, “I think you witnessed what a great Hall of Fame pitcher’s made of tonight.” He struggled to get going in the DS. It wasn’t a fantastic start, so there’s no need to beat around the bush. He wanted to perform better, I know that. You observed him working all week. He adjusted what he felt needed to be adjusted because he felt he had to. His ability to pitch six outstanding innings in a series with only one off day says a lot about him as a pitcher and a competitor.
With 17 strikeouts overall, the Yankees tied for second most in postseason history for a nine-inning game. The Astros’ difference of 15 strikeouts became the highest in a single game in postseason history despite them only striking out twice.
Jose Altuve, who is suffering through the deepest playoff slump of his career at 0-for-19, said of Verlander, “He gave us exactly the kind of performance we needed.” Together with our bullpen, which has been outstanding the entire season, this was a significant victory for us. In a difficult series like this one and against a strong club like the Yankees, he set the tone and helped us win the first game.
Verlander’s record versus the Yankees in nine playoff starts has improved to 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA. With his 15th playoff victory overall, Verlander is now tied for second all-time with Hall of Famer John Smoltz (Andy Pettitte leads with 19).
The Astros advanced to 10-5 overall against New York in postseason games, including a 7-1 mark at Minute Maid Park.