PHILADELPHIA – Justin Verlander has a very tough act to follow.
Not only will he again be seeking his first World Series win Thursday night, he'll take the mound against Philadelphia after four Houston Astros teammates combined on the Fall Classic's second no-hitter.
“He's one of the best,” Phillies slugger Bryce Harper said after Houston's 5-0 victory Wednesday tied the Series at two games apiece. “Just got to go out there and have the best at-bats we can and do what we can to get some runs up there.”
Verlander failed to hold a five-run lead in the opener, a 6-5, 10-inning loss for the Astros that left him 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts. The 39-year-old ace, expected to win his third Cy Young Award in a few weeks, has the highest ERA of any pitcher to throw at least 30 innings in the Fall Classic.
“Second time through the lineup they made some adjustments and did a better job of spoiling some decent pitches,” Verlander said before Game 4. “And then when I did make mistakes, they hit ’em. And then it just kind of compounded a little bit.”
Perfect through three innings, Verlander allowed Nick Castellanos' RBI single and Alec Bohm's two-run double in the fourth, then another two-run double to J.T. Realmuto in the fifth.
“I’ve been around long enough, man. I’ve had plenty of games,” Verlander said. “I’ve had everything happen — not everything. You always see something new in this game. That’s the old adage, anyway. But I’m not like dwelling on what went wrong-type thing.”
He will be facing a Phillies team that hasn't gotten a hit since Castellanos' leadoff single in the sixth inning of Game 3. Before Cristian Javier and three relievers combined to blank Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the only Series no-hitter was Don Larsen's perfect game for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
Verlander insisted he was a couple of fickle bounces in Game 1 from getting that elusive World Series win.
“I’m not going to sit here and dwell too much and be like, `Oh, I just got hit all over the yard,'” he said. “I think you try to keep a positive mindset and say, `Well, had a couple things gone my way, maybe things would have been very different.' So hopefully things will go my way next time.”
Verlander was 18-4 with a big league-best 1.75 ERA in his return from Tommy John surgery this season. Acquired by the Astros from Detroit in 2017, he's eligible for free agency and could be making his last start for Houston.
“It's premature,” he said. “Really and truly it’s been a hell of a ride no matter what happens, whether I stay or don’t. I’ve really enjoyed my time with this group of guys and the city and getting to know the city. And it’s really been a blessing and a wonderful time in my career. ... We talked a lot about how this year I’ve just tried to be more in the moment and be present and enjoy the ride.”
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