Justin Verlander K’s 11 will lead Astros to victory in ALCS opener

HOUSTON — The Astros quickly ran out of superlatives to describe Justin Verlanderperformance in their 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night.

Echoes of “first round Hall of Famer” and “ace” were heard throughout the Astros clubhouse after Verlander struck out 11 over six innings and allowed just one earned run.

But what really set his performance apart was the fact that Verlander, 39, wasn’t sharp at the start, coming off one of the worst playoff outings of his illustrious career, having allowed six of 10 runs. hits in Game 1 of the Division Series. against the Seattle Mariners.

The Astros pulled off a comeback win over Seattle with a three-run home run by slugger Yordan Alvarez, with Verlander notably showing rust and lack of control. Even so, it was no surprise to catch Martin Maldonado that his ace quickly returned to form when he needed it most.

“It’s exactly what I expected from him,” Maldonado told ESPN. “That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer.”

“He’s not only physically strong, as you can see, but he’s also mentally strong,” added manager Dusty Baker, praising Verlander. “This guy, he’s got mental toughness. When he’s down and it looks like you’ve gotten him in trouble, I mean, this guy, he can make it up.”

As the Astros fell behind in the second inning Wednesday night after Harrison Bader scored it with a solo shot, Verlander rebounded, striking out the last 11 Yankees he faced in a row, with nine punches.

Verlander’s 11 strikeouts gave him the eighth double-digit game at bat of his playoff career, setting an MLB record. Verlander also became the new playoff strikeout king, setting a major league record with 219 career playoff strikeouts, surpassing Clayton Kershawit’s 213.

“I think you saw what a real Hall of Fame pitcher is made of tonight,” his starting colleague said. Lance McCullers Jr. said. “He had a tough start in the DS. You don’t have to beat around the bush, it wasn’t a good start. I know he wanted to do better. … You saw him work all the week. He felt like he had some adjustments to make, and he made the adjustments…. In a series where there is only one day off, his ability to give us six incredible rounds says it all. long on who he is as a pitcher and competitor.”

The Yankees finished the game with 17 strikeouts, tied for second most in nine innings in playoff history. With the Astros having only struck twice, their 15 strikeout differential became the most in a single game in playoff history.

“He gave us exactly the kind of performance we needed, and I feel like I say that all the time about Verlander,” said Jose Altuvewho is stuck in the longest depression of his playoff career at 0 for 19. “It was a huge win for us, alongside our bullpen, who have been outstanding all season. He set the tone and allowed us to win Game 1, which is very important in a tough series like this, and against a great team like the Yankees.”

Verlander improved to 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA in nine playoff starts against the Yankees. It was Verlander’s 15th career playoff victory, tying Hall of Famer John Smoltz for second place all-time (Andy Pettitte leads with 19).

The Astros improved to 10-5 all-time in the playoffs against New York, including a 7-1 record at Minute Maid Park.

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