LOS ANGELES, Calif – When the Houston Astros acquired right-hander Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers, it was to enhance a pitching staff that featured fellow Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.
Since joining the Astros, Verlander has been as advertised and everything the organization had hoped for with a perfect 9-0, including the postseason.
Having success in the postseason is nothing new for Verlander. Previously, he pitched in two division series while with the Tigers versus the A’s. Asked if pitching in the postseason pushes him to another level as opposed to pitching in the regular season.
“Yeah, I think you do. I think the mental focus is just another level. I think it’s something that would be easy to say, why don’t you just do that every game? It’s unsustainable throughout the course of the regular season. If you were that mentally focused, you’d just burn out. It’s just another level. I don’t know how to really explain it. There are times throughout the course of the game where I lose track of where we’re at in the game and don’t really know whats going on. It’s just my sole focus even between innings is thinking about what I can do to execute and thinking about what pitches I should throw. What I’ve seen and what my instincts are telling me, you’re just that much more focused on the task at hand.”
Before being traded, there were rumors about Verlander coming to Los Angeles. Now he’s starting Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. Verlander shared his thoughts prior to being traded and pitching in Los Angeles.
“I think a lot of that was blown out of proportion because I just bought a house out here. I think it was easy for everyone to say ‘there’s been rumors of Justin going to LA and he bought a house; it’s the perfect fit.’ Really for me, my whole time in Detroit I was focusing on being in Detroit. And I know that sounds cliche, but thought it would be doing a disservice to that organization if I allowed my mind to wander and think about other organizations I want to visit. That’s why it came down to a last-minute decision, I had a lot of homework to do and a lot of information to try and decipher. I hadn’t allowed myself to think about it very much. L.A. is fantastic and great, but I hadn’t put my mind to specific organizations that I would prefer over others.”
The World Series requires pitchers to bat in the National League parks. Yesterday, the Astros pitchers took part in batting practice. Verlander hit one out during that time. He shared thoughts on pitchers hitting.
”Hitting, it’s fun during the regular season. You kind of get to break up the monotony a little bit. We have fun with it. But the World Series is a different animal. You can change the outcome of the game whether you get the bunt down or whether you can squeak out a hit. I’m not going to try and hit a home run. I hope I’m 0-for-0 with four sacrifice bunts. That’s the ideal plan. But I guess when you’re up there you just- if the situation calls for it, you try to do the best you can.”
On the thoughts of giving Houston their first title in 55 years. Should the Astros win the 2017 World Series, it would be the first as an AL franchise and they would be a perfect 1-for-1 as an American League team.
“I think in any organization the opportunity to win your first championship is something special. But really with what’s going on in Houston now specifically, I think it makes it even more special. I mean, giving this opportunity, if we come away successful, you leave a legacy and mark on people that won’t be forgotten. So it would mean a lot to me, and I know a lot to a lot of other people that really can use something to cheer for right now.”