Where would the Houston Astros be without Justin Verlander leading the pitching staff? They’d probably still be pretty good, but not nearly as good as they have been since acquiring him just over a year ago.
Houston took a 1-0 series lead Saturday night in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with their ace taking the reigns like usual. It wasn’t your typical dominant start from the right-hander — he did walk four hitters and recorded two wild pitches — but he allowed just two runs on two hits and six strikeouts in six innings. The Astros were favored to win the game at Novibet Sports and other online sports books, and Verlander did not disappoint.
Thanks to his earlier days with the Detroit Tigers and now the last two Octobers with the Astros, Verlander has accumulated 24 appearances (23 starts) in postseason play, leading to 146.1 innings. That’s basically a season’s worth of work, and he’s taken advantage of all the opportunity by posting a 13-6 record with a 3.08 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 28.1% strikeout rate, and 7.8% walk rate.
That’s not too shabby on the surface, but it gets more impressive when realizing the historical significance.
Justin Verlander’s first full year in Houston couldn’t have gone much better. His 2.52 ERA is the lowest it’s been since 2011 — you know, when he won the AL Cy Young and MVP award — while those strikeout and walk rates are both career-best marks. For someone with as impressive of a resume as Verlander, achieving those feats in his age-35 season is remarkable.
That is the 2nd most EVER by an AL pitcher (Andy Pettitte, 19). pic.twitter.com/JJ6KHa83Zu
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 14, 2018
Is this mostly because he’s playing in an era with plenty of chances to register wins during the postseason? Well, yes, but this is also the seventh year of playoff baseball in his career.
Of those 13 career wins, though, six have come with Houston. While he’s only 2-1 in his last four postseason starts, Verlander has allowed just nine hits in 23.1 frames. This particular streak has him being mentioned in the same breath as Don Larsen, so that’s pretty cool.
The @astros' Justin Verlander has now allowed a total of 9 hits over his last 4 postseason starts. That ties the fewest hits ever allowed over a span of 4 postseason starts; the other to do it was Don Larsen from 1955-57 – a stretch that included his perfect game. #NeverSettle
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) October 14, 2018
As mentioned earlier, Saturday’s start was far from Verlander’s best work. He still found a way to limit base hits, which has been the theme of his playoff career.
The Astros win Game 1 of the #ALCS, 7-2, behind Justin Verlander’s strong start.
After tonight, Verlander has a .195 career opp BA in postseason play. That's the lowest in MLB postseason history by any pitcher with at least 10 postseason starts. pic.twitter.com/6XFKYAQCAF
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 14, 2018
It’s safe to say that Houston has gotten everything they were hoping from Verlander, and then some. Not only has he gone 21-9 with a 2.32 ERA and 0.87 WHIP through his first 248 regular-season innings, but he’s been as close to automatic as you can get when it counts the most.
About Matt Musico
Matt currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger.