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Veteran quest: 5 in search of first WS title

MLB.com @feinsand

LOS ANGELES -- As his teammates spilled out of the dugout to mob each other on the Minute Maid Park mound Saturday night, Justin Verlander acted like a man who had been there before.

Twice, actually.

LOS ANGELES -- As his teammates spilled out of the dugout to mob each other on the Minute Maid Park mound Saturday night, Justin Verlander acted like a man who had been there before.

Twice, actually.

Verlander knows how sacred a trip to the World Series is for a player, and after reaching the Fall Classic twice in his first seven seasons -- winding up on the losing sides both times -- the 13-year veteran is doing his best to appreciate his latest chance to pitch for a championship.

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"It was kind of a Cinderella story for Detroit and for me in my rookie year; it was like, 'Oh, we'll be back here. This is super easy,'" Verlander said as the Astros prepared for Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV. "That experience and the time in between does give you an appreciation for how special it is to get this far."

Gear up for the World Series: Astros | Dodgers

This World Series features many compelling angles, and one of them is the quest of five long-time veterans in search of their first World Series title.

Verlander, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann are three prominent Astros veterans vying for their first World Series ring, while Clayton Kershaw and Curtis Granderson will try to thwart Houston's postseason run and pick up the first such hardware of their accomplished careers.

"There have been moments this postseason where I've taken a little more time to appreciate it and let it sink in," Verlander said. "When we clinched, I wasn't the first one running on the field into the pile. I slowly jogged out there, looked around the stadium, waved to my family and tried to feel it a little more so I could remember it."

Verlander didn't do that in 2006 or '12 with the Tigers, overwhelmed by the excitement of the situation both times.

"It's such an adrenaline rush and it's so exciting, you just kind of forget to experience it," Verlander said. "You experience it, but you don't really take it in. This postseason, I've made a point a couple times to take a moment to step back and soak it all in."

"To get a chance to be here right now, you look back and go, 'Wow,' knowing what everybody had to go through to get to this point," said Granderson, who played in the World Series with the 2006 Tigers and the 2015 Mets. "You definitely don't take anything for granted."

Video: WS 2017 Gm1: Granderson on returning to World Series

Beltran is in his 20th season, and at the age of 40, it's uncertain how many more shots he'll have at that elusive title. He's been to the postseason seven times with six teams, but he's appeared in only one World Series, losing to the Red Sox as a member of the 2013 Cardinals.

In the Astros' clubhouse, Beltran is the wise old sage, always there to offer advice or an encouraging word to his younger teammates. As much as the Astros want to win it all for themselves and the city of Houston, it seems that getting Beltran his first championship is as much of a motivating factor as any other.

"It would mean everything," said McCann, who played with Beltran in New York for three seasons before they wound up together again in Houston. "We've all talked about it. We want to get this done. He's a special person. I tell guys all the time, you're not going to come across another Carlos Beltran in your career."

Beltran seemed both touched and embarrassed about his teammates' desire to help get him a ring, quickly turning the discussion back to the 25-man unit.

"I take it as a compliment," Beltran said. "I take a lot of pride in being a good teammate, trying to help my guys and trying to impact my teammates in a positive way. We have to win it for all of us, not just for me. We all deserve to win it."

Video: ALCS Gm7: Beltran on Astros' bond, advancing to WS

Beltran's lack of a World Series title can't be attributed to his play, which has made him one of the great postseason performers of this generation. In 62 career playoff games, Beltran has 16 home runs, 42 RBIs and an impressive .311/.417/.618 slash line.

He's not shy about admitting what winning would mean to him, but he's also cognizant that it's not entirely in his hands. In fact, during the games in Los Angeles without the use of the designated hitter, he will be little more than a pinch-hitter in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.

"This is what you dream about as a ballplayer," Beltran said. "Since you get the opportunity to sign as a professional ballplayer, your first dream is trying to get to the big leagues. Your second dream is trying to win a World Series. I have never been able to accomplish that. I got the opportunity to go once and we didn't win it. I'm just grateful and happy to be in this position. It's a blessing. It would be great if I win it. If I don't win it, it wasn't meant to be."

While Verlander, Beltran and McCann were willing to look at things from a big-picture vantage point, Kershaw was laser-focused on Game 1 as he spoke about the Series Monday.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Kershaw discusses his World Series plans

For Kershaw, the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and 2014 National League MVP, this marks his first trip to the World Series, a destination he's longed to visit since he broke into the league in 2008. The Dodgers have been to the postseason seven times in Kershaw's 10 seasons, but each of the first six ended with a Los Angeles loss.

Kershaw is hoping this year is different, even if he isn't prepared to discuss what winning would mean.

"I always say you can analyze all that stuff after," Kershaw said. "I think it meant a lot in Chicago, when we were saying, 'We are going to the World Series.' That's a special thing. But now we're flipping the switch a little bit, and we're trying to figure out how to win four games.

"After the season is over we'll look back on it, and hopefully have a World Series trophy to celebrate. We'll wait for all the reflection stuff until after the season."

The one thing each of these veterans have in common is their appreciation for their position, knowing how difficult it is to even get to the World Series, let alone to win it.

"Not too many people get to this point," Beltran said. "I've heard stories from guys who played for 10 or 15 years and never got to a playoff round. It's hard. You have to embrace it. This doesn't happen every year."

For at least two of them, this finally will be that year.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander