Justin Verlander has learned “a lot of things” in two starts against the Yankees this season, but the Astros ace won’t share his thoughts on the deepest lineup in baseball.
Even if the regular-season schedule shows no more games left between the Yankees and Astros, Verlander can easily envision when the next matchup between the division leaders might be.
“Probably a good chance,” Verlander said of a second playoff meeting in three years. “I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position to do so, both teams. I think this whole series and the first series, they’re so early on in the year, [but] in this landscape of teams not trying to win, and a few teams trying to win, I think we both had an idea early on that we gotta see how we match up.”
The matchup has favored Verlander ever since he joined Houston in 2017.
In Sunday’s 9-4 win over the Yankees, the 36-year-old helped end Houston’s seven-game losing streak and avoid an embarrassing sweep in The Bronx, allowing three runs and four hits over seven innings, while striking out nine.
Verlander (10-3) improved to 2-0 with a 2.28 ERA in four regular-season starts against the Yankees since being acquired by the Astros — he also went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA while capturing the 2017 ALCS MVP — and hasn’t been saddled with a loss against the Yankees since June 19, 2015.
“Any starting pitcher wants to come out there and be the stopper,” Verlander said. “It’s something I’ve taken a lot of pride in in my career. At the end of a tough series, when it’s my day, kind of leave nothing out there and see what I could do.”
Early on, Verlander did whatever he wanted.
Entering leading the majors in opponents’ batting average (.157) and WHIP (0.74), the right-hander allowed just one hit while opening with four scoreless frames, and was spotted a 9-0 lead.
Verlander, who allowed three runs in six innings in a no-decision against the Yankees on April 8, retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth, but then allowed back-to-back singles. Verlander followed by hanging a slider to DJ LeMahieu, who pushed a three-run homer to the short porch, landing two rows behind the wall.
Verlander didn’t allow another runner to reach base, striking out five of the final seven hitters he faced, finishing with 107 pitches (69 strikes).
“I thought he was great,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “His demeanor from the very beginning of the game, all signs of the Verlander we expect.”