The New York Yankees are one win away from heading to the World Series for the first time since 2009 and the one roadblock is Verlander himself.
So far, so
good phenomenal for the New York Yankees. After anticipating a series that would be all Astros, the Yankees have taken a surprising 3-2 lead.
Now, they sit one game away from the World Series and have to take down a familiar foe in Justin Verlander. They’ve done it before. However, this time is a whole lot different.
The Yankees sent the series back to Houston, where the Yankees will experience a repeat of the Game 2 match-up that resulted in heartbreaking loss. Oh, and Verlander tossed nine innings en route to victory.
While you can’t predict baseball, the odds are against the Yankees with Verlander on the mound, despite the fact that they’ve won three in a row against the top offensive team in the American League.
They’re back in Houston, where the fans are ruthless and the enclosed stadium is literally teeming with endless noise. That’s not it.
It’s the fact that they have to face Verlander again, who completely dominated the Yankees in Game 2 by striking out 13.
This season, he has pitched 12 games on five days’ rest, posting a 3.05 ERA with 73 strikeouts. He’s also been 8-0 since joining the Astros, including a 4-0 record at home with 32 strikeouts in 31 innings. Not only that, but he’s 3-0 in the playoffs alone.
But that’s not even what concerns me. What does concern me is his playoff track record, which has only gotten better over the years.
He has played in four postseason elimination games in his career. Taking the loss in his first elimination game in the 2006 World Series, he turned in two stellar performances in 2012 and 2013, allowing six hits in 17 innings.
He’s improved drastically and pitching at home, the Yankees have a massive mountain to climb to get past Verlander and into the Fall Classic. And he’s not going to be thrown off by his pitch count of 124 last game.
Out of 32 games this season, Verlander threw over 100 pitches in 27 of them. In fact, in the majority of his starts where he tossed over 100 pitches, he followed up those performances with even more 100-pitch starts.
You think the Yankees tired him out? Think again. He’s used to this. He’s ready to rock and roll in his home ballpark where he’s been absolutely crushing it.
But he’s not unstoppable. The Yankees know that, especially after knocking out Dallas Keuchel in the playoffs for the first time. It’s just that his track record is too impressive to ignore.
But that’s the beauty of baseball: you can’t predict it, Suzyn. If you called the Yankees beating up on Corey Kluber in the ALDS, you better have played the lottery. If you called the Yankees coming back from an 0-2 deficit to take the series lead, you’re a genius.
Beating Verlander will be difficult but it is not impossible. Even in his home park with the fans putting every fiber of their being into making sure Verlander feels loved, the Yankees are one win away.
No matter what Verlander throws, the Yankees know they’ve got a challenge ahead of them. What’s different about this Yankees team is that they won’t back down.
This could go either way but no matter what, it’ll be a whole lot of Friday night fun.