LOS ANGELES -- Justin Verlander does not lift heavy weights during the season. He sleeps as much as possible. He runs quite a bit.None of this is perfect science; Verlander cannot say how much his regimen is the driving factor behind his energy and success, at a time of year
LOS ANGELES -- Justin Verlander does not lift heavy weights during the season. He sleeps as much as possible. He runs quite a bit.
None of this is perfect science; Verlander cannot say how much his regimen is the driving factor behind his energy and success, at a time of year when most players are tired, fatigued, gassed. But that success, at least, is plain to see. After the Astros lost, 3-1, to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV on Tuesday, Verlander will look to extend one of the most impressive runs in recent postseason history when he takes the mound in Game 2 on Wednesday.
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"It is pretty remarkable," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I was told when he first got here that he gets stronger … and everything speaks to that. And then when you watch it happen at the biggest stage and some of the biggest moments in some of our biggest games, you become a believer."
In an era that has seen relievers consume more and more of the playoff pie chart, no one has pitched more innings this postseason than Verlander. He began with six of them in an 8-2 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan on Oct. 5, and then added 2 2/3 out of the bullpen on Oct. 9 in a 5-4 victory in Game 4 that sent Houston to the AL Championship Series. In the ALCS presented by Camping World, Verlander struck out 13 in a complete-game victory over the Yankees on Oct. 14, then returned six days later to blank New York over seven innings of a must-win Game 6 on Oct. 20.
Dating back to 2011, Verlander is 10-3 with a 2.40 ERA, 113 strikeouts and 26 walks over his last 16 postseason outings.
"I think the mental focus is just another level," Verlander said. "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."
Verlander, who will start Game 2 on regular rest on Tuesday, has shown no signs of doing that this October. This was the plan when the Astros acquired him for three prospects in August, hoping Verlander might stabilize a rotation smarting from injuries to key members. In contrast to his teammates, Verlander is the picture of durability; he eclipsed 200 innings this year for the 10th time in 11 seasons, and leads the Majors in total innings over that stretch. Verlander is also tops in wins and is tied for sixth in complete games.
Verlander credits all of it to an offseason regimen that focuses on strength training and interval work, tearing his body down from November through March so he can treat it royally from March through October.
For Verlander, the system works. But after beating the Yankees in Game 6 of ALCS, "one of the best moments of my career, plain and simple," he went on to note that the job is not complete. Although Verlander dominated the Dodgers during their lone regular-season meeting this year, he has little history against Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and the heart of Los Angeles' lineup. He has also struggled in his only previous World Series appearances, going 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in three starts in 2006 and '12 with the Tigers.
The Astros consider that a small sample, an aberration for one of the strongest -- literally -- October competitors of this generation.
"It is part of his DNA," Hinch said. "He's a finisher mentally, just as much as he is physically. He prepares himself. He studies. … He's certainly got plenty left in the tank."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.