Astros Confident With Verlander Starting Game Six

Justin Verlander starts for the Astros Tuesday night

Adam Spolane
October 28, 2019 - 7:32 pm

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- With just nine innings standing between his team and a second World Series title in three years, A.J. Hinch will hand the baseball to Justin Verlander when the Astros host the Washington Nationals in game six of the World Series and he hopes he never has to take it away.

"I'm going to start with JV's gonna get 27 outs," Hinch said Monday before the Astros held a workout at Minute Maid Park. 

Verlander's last pitch of the World Series came in the seventh inning of game two when he walked Victor Robles following Kurt Suzuki's tiebreaking home run on the inning's second pitch. He took the loss that night as he did the start before at Yankee Stadium in game five of the American League Championship Series. In five postseason starts, Verlander is 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA, but that doesn't faze Hinch for a second. 

"We believe he's going to be at his best tomorrow," Hinch said. "He loves this big stage. He loves being relied upon. He's going to be as intense as he's been probably the entire season because he knows what can happen at the end of 27 outs."

There has been a common theme in Verlander's three playoff losses: the first inning. He gave up three runs in the opening frame when he pitched on short rest in Tampa, and after allowing four runs in the first inning in game five against the Yankees, the Nationals tagged him with a pair in the first inning last week. Nine of the 14 runs he's surrendered in the playoffs have come in the first inning. 

"I think with a lot of elite pitchers, and power pitchers specifically, for them to catch their rhythm and their timing is very critical and sometimes if you don't get them early you never get them," Hinch explained.

Over his 15-year major league career, which will likely land him in Cooperstown, Verlander has won an MVP, a Cy Young, and 239 games combined in the regular season and playoffs.

But none have come in the World Series, but on Tuesday he has a chance to change that and add another line to his already impressive resume.

"I've heard a couple of our guys say this when Justin is pitching, we come to the ballpark with an absolute expectation to win," Hinch said. "If your peers are saying that, when your team is saying that, when your manager is saying that, the fan base is going to be rocking tomorrow with a ton of confidence that JV is on the mound. That's like the biggest compliment you can give to one of your guys.

"I love that he's going to own it. I think it's also not going to overwhelm him. And it's because of the back of his baseball card will tell you why. But I think this would be a nice little bullet point on a career that's headed towards Cooperstown. If he can add a season-clinching, World Series- clinching win, count me in."

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