Justin Verlander has been in the postseason spotlight since coming on as a rookie flamethrower with the Tigers in 2006, and he's seemingly gotten better at pitching in the biggest moments with each passing year.
It's hard to believe now that Verlander, who posted a 5.57 ERA over his first eight career postseason starts, could have originally been seen as a pitcher who couldn't get the job done in October. The righty has since compiled a case for the most clutch October pitcher in history.
Is he?? Below is a look at both what Verlander and his competition have done, sorted by ERA compiled in potential elimination games with a minimum of 20 innings.
Madison Bumgarner: 0.96 ERA
4 G (3 GS), 28 IP, 2-0, 1 save
Bumgarner's starts in elimination games have been dominant enough by themselves. He's twice thrown shutouts in the win-or-go-home Wild Card Game -- against the Pirates in 2014 and the Mets in '16, both on the road. But it's Bumgarner's relief appearance in an elimination game that made him a modern-day postseason legend. His five scoreless innings to close out Game 7 of the '14 World Series against the Royals is one of the most iconic playoff pitching performances ever.
Justin Verlander: 1.21 ERA
5 GS, 37.1 IP, 4-1
When his teams' backs have been against the wall, Verlander has brought the heat. The right-hander tormented the A's in back-to-back winner-take-all ALDS Game 5's in 2012-13, striking out a combined 21 Oakland hitters over 17 scoreless innings in those performances. Then, with the Astros on the brink in Game 6 of the '17 ALCS, Verlander spun seven scoreless frames and struck out eight Yankees to spur Houston toward its first World Series title.
Jacob Arrieta: 1.27 ERA
3 GS, 21.1 IP, 3-0
All three times Arrieta has taken the mound with his team facing elimination, he's won. The first of those was the 2015 NL Wild Card Game, when he shut out the Pirates and struck out 11, a masterful postseason debut after a NL Cy Young Award regular season. But Arrieta's most important elimination game effort came in Game 6 of the '16 World Series, when he helped the Cubs force a Game 7 by beating the Indians with 5 2/3 innings of two-run, nine-strikeout baseball. The Cubs would, of course, go on to win their first World Series in 108 years.
Curt Schilling: 1.37 ERA
5 GS, 39.1 IP, 4-0
Schilling might have the best overall body of work in elimination games of any starting pitcher. He pitched five career elimination games with three franchises -- the Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox -- and every time he took the mound, his team won. Schilling dominated all five games. Schilling pitched at least seven innings in all five, and never allowed more than two runs.
Those games included a 147-pitch shutout of the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series for Philadelphia, and a complete-game win for the D-backs over the Cardinals in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the 2001 NLDS. Schilling was also terrific in Game 7 of the World Series that year, throwing 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Yankees to set the stage for Arizona's memorable walk-off rally in the ninth against Mariano Rivera. And one of the most iconic images in MLB postseason history is Schilling's bloody sock in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, another brilliant elimination-game performance that helped the Red Sox complete their historic comeback over the Yankees en route to shattering the Curse of the Bambino.
Whitey Ford: 1.37 ERA
4 GS, 26.1 IP, 2-1
Ford is a Yankees icon who helped New York win six World Series during his Hall of Fame career. He was good when the Yanks faced elimination, too -- but interestingly, Ford's two best elimination-game performances have been mostly relegated to historical footnotes. One was a complete-game, one-run win over the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1955 World Series… but Brooklyn then won Game 7 to clinch the franchise's first championship. The other was a shutout of the Pirates in Game 6 of the '60 World Series… only for Pittsburgh to win the series in Game 7 on Bill Mazeroski's iconic walk-off home run.
Josh Beckett: 1.38 ERA
4 G (3 GS), 26 IP, 3-0
At just 23 years of age, Beckett was nails when the Marlins needed him most in 2003. The young righty struck out 11 Cubs in a must-win shutout in Game 5 of the NLCS before coming back on two days' rest to provide four innings of valuable relief in Game 7. He did virtually the same thing in another 3-1 comeback four years later, striking out 11 Indians in the Red Sox's Game 5 win to stay alive in the ALCS.
Mickey Lolich: 1.67 ERA
3 GS, 27 IP, 2-0
Lolich etched his name in history with three complete-game victories in the 1968 World Series, including season-saving wins in Games 5 and 7, when he outdueled the great Bob Gibson. Lolich allowed just five runs while striking out 21 Cardinals over those three performances. He came up clutch again four years later in the ALCS, twirling another complete-game win against Catfish Hunter and the A's in a must-win Game 4.
Orel Hershiser: 1.82 ERA
6 G (4 GS), 34.2 IP, 2-0
"Bulldog" pitched decently in the Dodgers' season-ending loss to the Cardinals in the 1985 NLCS Game 6 before becoming baseball's best pitcher in '88. After breaking Don Drysdale's scoreless innings streak in September, Hershiser twirled a pennant-winning five-hit shutout against the Mets in NLCS Game 7 that set up Kirk Gibson's World Series heroics.
Hershiser went on to help save the Indians' and Mets' seasons in 1995 (when he outdueled Greg Maddux in Game 5 of the World Series), '97 and '99. He allowed just one home run over his six elimination-game appearances.
Bob Turley: 1.95 ERA
5 G (3 GS), 27.2 IP, 3-0
Turley proved to be the Yankees' workhorse in their back-to-back World Series matchups against the Braves in 1957-58. The righty spun a complete-game two-run effort to help New York squeak by Milwaukee in Game 6 of the '57 Fall Classic before Hank Aaron's club took Game 7. Turley then compiled one of the more heroic World Series performances in '58, shutting out the Braves in a must-win Game 5, coming in to retire Frank Torre for the final out of Game 6 and then permitting just one run while pitching the final 6 2/3 innings in relief in Game 7.
John Smoltz: 2.02 ERA
12 G (7 GS), 58 IP, 4-1, 1 save
Smoltz's seven postseason elimination game starts are tied with Roger Clemens for the most in history, and he was outstanding in them. Atlanta's co-ace went 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA when starting with his team's back against the wall, with his only loss memorably coming to Jack Morris after Smoltz pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. The versatile Smoltz also came out of the bullpen in five elimination games, and finished out season-saving wins in both the 2003 and '04 NLDS.
Chris Carpenter: 2.05 ERA
3 GS, 22 IP, 2-0
Carpenter kept the Cardinals alive for one more game against the Astros in the 2005 NLCS and was then instrumental in St. Louis' miracle World Series run in '11. The righty outdueled Roy Halladay by twirling a three-hit shutout against the Phillies to win the NLDS, and then held the Rangers' potent offense to two runs over six innings in Game 7 of the World Series.
Randy Johnson: 2.45 ERA
8 G (5 GS), 44 IP, 4-3
The Big Unit struck out 10 Yankees to keep the Mariners' season alive in Game 3 of the 1995 ALDS, and then came out of the bullpen to keep the Yanks at bay long enough for Edgar Martinez's famous 11th-inning, walk-off double in the decisive Game 5. But he's perhaps remembered most for the 2001 World Series, when he held the Yankees to two runs in Game 6 before coming back the very next night to relieve Schilling and close out the D-backs' dramatic Game 7 victory.
Derek Lowe: 2.55 ERA
10 G (4 GS), 35.1 IP, 2-1, 1 save
David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Dave Roberts and Pedro Martinez have are some of the biggest names from Boston's postseason renaissance of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Lowe may have been an unsung hero of it all. Lowe saved the decisive Game 5 of the '03 ALDS in which the Red Sox came back from a 0-2 deficit to the A's, and later figured into two of the most important games in franchise history: A solid start in Game 4 and a win in Game 7 of Boston's '04 ALCS comeback against the Yankees.
Barry Zito: 2.86 ERA
4 GS, 22 IP, 2-1
The ace of the "Moneyball" A's held the Yankees to one run in Game 4 of the 2000 ALDS, and suffered a tough loss to Martinez and the Red Sox in the decisive Game 5 of the '03 ALDS. He was more impactful across the Bay with San Francisco, starting Game 4 of the Giants' win against the Reds in the '12 NLDS and then twirling 7 2/3 scoreless innings on the road in Game 5 of that year's NLCS against the Cardinals. San Francisco completed comebacks from 2-0 against Cincinnati and 3-1 against St. Louis, thanks in part to Zito.
Bob Gibson: 3.67 ERA
3 GS, 27 IP, 2-1
Gibson's mettle was revered above all others in his time, and for good reason. The ace started 10 of the Cardinals' final 39 games of the regular season in 1964, winning eight of them, and then pitched four more innings on two days' rest in the finale to help the Redbirds claim the pennant. Gibson then split his first two World Series starts against Mickey Mantle's Yankees before coming back again on two days' rest to hurl a complete-game victory on fumes in Game 7.
Gibson went on to shut down the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox in Game 7 of the 1967 Fall Classic (nine innings, two runs and 10 strikeouts) before hurling another complete-game effort in a loss to Lolich and the Tigers in Game 7 the following year.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.