HOUSTON – Astros ace right-hander Justin Verlander was almost sheepish in the dismissal of his strong postseason history against his upcoming opponent Sunday at Minute Maid Park, but there is little doubt that Houston will require Verlander to be stellar again against the New York Yankees.
After dropping Game 1 of the American League Championship Series 7-0 on Saturday night, the Astros need Verlander to thrive as they look to square the series at a game apiece before the ALCS shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Tuesday.
Verlander (1-1, 3.38 ERA in the ALDS) has made six career postseason starts against the Yankees, producing a 4-0 record with a 2.33 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 38 2/3 innings. His first career postseason start came against the Yankees on Oct. 5, 2006, during his rookie campaign with the Detroit Tigers. Verlander also claimed MVP honors in the 2017 ALCS after he limited the Yankees to one run on 10 hits and two walks with 21 strikeouts over 16 innings in two starts.
While Verlander didn’t attribute his recent postseason success against the Yankees — he has allowed just two runs in 24 1/3 innings across his last three starts — to anything specific, he did acknowledge in detail the challenges the Yankees present with their intimidating collection of sluggers.
“I think the power, 1 through 9 is prodigious, and we all know that,” Verlander said. “They have a bunch of different ways to hurt you. They have speed, they have guys that are really aggressive, they have guys that aren’t. I mean, it’s just a good mix.
“You have to have a unique game plan for every single guy, and you have to be able to adjust quickly, because they do, as well.”
Yankees left-hander James Paxton (0-0, 5.79 ERA in the ALDS) comes equipped with a promising set of results against the Astros — he is 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA over 14 career starts against Houston — and the knowledge that his offense is capable of providing a cushion in a blink.
The Yankees clubbed three homers in the series opener, on solo shots by Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela.
Given how effectively Paxton pitched against Houston while with the Mariners in his first six seasons, he has reason to feel confident.
“Yeah, … having past success against them is great,” Paxton said. “Obviously that can help build some confidence. But tomorrow is its own day, and I’m going to have to go out there and do my thing and execute pitches like I said.
“They’re a really good team, so I’m going to have to do what I do and not leave anything over the middle for them.”
The Astros overcame an offensive slog to advance past the Rays in the AL Division Series. Their bats falling silent in Game 1 against the Yankees fed concerns that something more debilitating than opposing pitching is at play, anguish the Astros need to rectify immediately.
“We don’t have time for frustration,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “This is a series that they threw the first punch Game 1, we get to the next day, we can punch right back tomorrow.
“I don’t think they’re going to be too comfortable tomorrow coming to the ballpark thinking they’ve got an easy game ahead of themselves.”
–Field Level Media