HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander is a true top of the line ace, a starter who’s likely headed for the Hall of Fame.
But in the World Series, he showed he’s no closer.
Verlander wasn’t bad in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Just not good enough to get his first World Series win and give the Houston Astros their second title in three seasons.
Verlander, who led the majors with 21 wins this season, fell to 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in seven World Series starts.
“I thought we didn’t talk about record anymore,” Verlander said with a smile. “Hey, there’s been some good games mixed in with some not-so-good ones. I can’t point a finger to anything in particular. I’m going out there and trying my best. Just wasn’t able to come away with a win.”
Houston led by 1 in the fifth before Verlander surrendered a solo homer to Adam Eaton and a second-deck dinger to Juan Soto to put the Nationals on their way to a 7-2 victory to force a Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Verlander gave up five hits and three runs while walking three before Brad Peacock replaced him for the sixth. He fell to 1-4 this postseason.
“I thought he ran out of gas at the end,” manager AJ Hinch said, “I thought he left it all out on the field.”
The 36-year-old has a World Series ring, MVP and Cy Award trophies, and three no-hitters on a sparkling resume. But time and time again he’s been unable to get it done on baseball’s biggest stage.
“I don’t know if I’d say that,” he said. “Hopefully I get another opportunity.”
That could come as early as Wednesday.
“It’s a Game 7 all hands on deck,” Verlander said. “If AJ asks, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way.”
Verlander was also the loser in Game 2 when he allowed four runs in six innings as Houston fell into a 0-2 hole to start this series.
The starter in Game 6 of the World Series in 2017 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Verlander was also unable to close things out then. He gave up the lead in the sixth inning of a 3-1 loss. Houston took Game 7 the following night to win its first championship.
But his inability to finish things off this postseason didn’t start in the World Series. His woes date back to the AL Division Series when he returned on short rest to try to eliminate the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead, he was tagged for three runs in the first inning of a 4-1 loss.
Verlander was on tap to close things out in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees, but the first inning did him in again. In that one, he allowed four runs in the opening frame of New York’s 4-1 win.
On Tuesday night, Verlander allowed an RBI single to Anthony Rendon that made it 1-0 in the first.
His offense picked him up in the bottom of the inning when George Springer doubled on Stephen Strasburg’s first pitch, stole third when his second throw was a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Altuve to tie it. Alex Bregman put Houston on top 2-1 with his two-out shot.
The Astros still led by 1 in the fifth when Eaton connected off Verlander on a shot to right field. Soto’s blast put the Nationals back on top 3-2. Verlander, who gave up a career-high 36 homers in the regular season, has allowed nine career homers in the World Series.
His struggles this postseason and his subpar history in the World Series have some similarities to those of fellow ace and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers star has long been one of the league’s brightest stars on the mound with a regular season resume that few can match. But he too has been felled by October struggles and dropped to 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA and 24 home runs allowed in 32 postseason games after allowing two homers in a relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLDS to allow the Nationals to advance.
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