Just when everyone was starting to write him off — or, at the very least, write him off until he made some adjustments — Justin Verlander came out this afternoon and posted his best start since 2013, tossing eight innings of one-run ball and striking out 10 in the Tigers 2-1 win against the Rays.
He needed to be that good, though, given that Chris Archer nearly matched him. Indeed, Archer retired the first 19 batters he faced before allowing a Jose Iglesias infield single. A fielder’s choice and a couple of singles later and the Tigers had their two. Which would stand for the game.
Apart from allowing a homer to Asdrubal Cabrera, Verlander was masterful. It was his first double-digit strikeout game with no walks for since Sept. 24, 2010. It was his first double-digit strikeout game period since September 2013. More importantly, he was changing speeds, using his breaking ball as an out pitch when, just a couple of weeks ago, he seemed overly-reliant on his heat.
This was Verlander’s second straight eight inning, one-run start, the last being on Friday against Boston.
Seems Verlander is finally coming around.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.