Justin Verlander Oct. 5 postgame interview
Q. Going back to your first postseason start, can you give us an idea of what it might have been like for Sonny Gray coming in here facing the great Justin Verlander as a rookie?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Obviously he has a lot of angst and nerves, biggest game of his career. You know, I just remember kinda being really wide‑eyed and trying to take everything out of it. It probably helped that he was at home, the fans root for him.
My first postseason start was in old Yankee Stadium in 2006, and this is a place that I watched on TV and watched growing up and all the magical moments. And here I am standing on the mound with all the ghosts of Yankees past and it was a pretty awesome experience.
You know, Sonny did one heck of a job. He was able to use his angst and energy for a positive and a lot of young guys it works against them. That's why veterans usually seem to do better in postseason pressure. He handled himself like a veteran and it was impressive.
Q. Two performance at the ALDS last year in Oakland and two tonight. How would you compare your performances?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Pretty good stuff. I feel like that's been a theme for me my last few starts, and it's a good theme for me to have because I've been working really hard to find my stuff and my location and everything.
I feel like my last three in particular have been really good. Obviously, you know, coming into tonight, especially after the first couple of innings, I realized it was probably going to be a low‑scoring game. And one might even do it with the way that Sonny looked. I don't think it's quite comparable to Game 5, different situation, obviously win or go home, so I still rank that one a bit higher and I threw a complete game.
These guys have a propensity to foul off pitches and work pitch counts and get pitch counts up really high, and Vogt the last at‑bat, he had a 10‑pitch count with me, and I think that put the nail in the coffin. I went up to 120 pitches and Jim wasn't going to send me back out. If that was a one or two pitch out I might have been able to go back in for the eighth, and who knows, things might have been a little bit different.
Q. Following up on what you said, you realized you were going to have to raise it up because your team is not scoring and their team is not scoring. Do you change anything at all in there mentally or physically, its way 0‑0 game in the fifth or the sixth?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Absolutely you do. I think it's not easy at this level, nothing is easy, but it's easy to pitch with a lead, especially when you get a two or three run lead you can be more aggressive with the fastball and you don't have to worry about the solo home run losing a game.
When it's nothing‑nothing in the sixth, seventh and eighth, you have to be careful and execute your pitches, and at the same time, you can't get off the gas. You gotta stay on 'em. So it's a line you walk.
Q. What did you and Sonny say to each other as you were going in and out here?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I just told him he did a good job.
Q. Going back to that Vogt at‑bat, we don't see you as much as Detroit people do, but that seemed a little bit out of character for you to be that demonstrative or excited, is that more of you than we see normally?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, I don't usually get too animated out there. Obviously I'm as competitive as they come. I do tend to show emotional sometimes, and to my display, sometimes it's toward the umpires. That's when I usually get the most animated.
But the postseason, adrenaline, everything, I'm not trying to show anybody up. It just kinda comes out. Obviously that was a huge spot in the game, base hit, anything, I knew this game would be over. Especially the at‑bat he put together, that's one of the best at‑bats he's had against me in a long time. So to come out on the winning hand, it just flows, the emotion.
Q. Speaking of that at‑bat, can you take us through the at‑bat, what that was like?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: It was one heck of a battle. I felt like I was giving him everything I had and he was putting good swings on everything. My fastball up and in, he was on them enough to foul 'em straight back. And then I threw him a curveball, and he seemed to be on that.
The one really good one I threw him, that probably would have landed just beyond the plate. He was able to stay alive and that's like, Okay, you know he's up there grinding, because he was able to stay alive.
After that pitch, Alex came out and I put my glove over my mouth, and me and him didn't say a word, we got three‑quarters out to the mound, and I just went "I got nothing."
And Alex said "How about a change‑up?"
And I said "Okay, let's go with that, it's going to be a ball, though. I want him to chase."
So it was out there, and here it is, hit it and he was able to get him to chase the fastball up and away.
Q. A lot of your strikeouts came on called third strikes and a lot of those came on your curveball. Was your confidence in that pitch sky‑high tonight?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, it felt really good, really good from jump street, right when I was throwing in the bullpen. In particular my curveball has benefited the most along with my fastball command, but my last three or four starts with the adjustments I made, that is the thing that is glaring to me the most is how my curveball has responded.
I tinkered around with my grip a little bit, I thought I had changed my grip over the course of the season, things just kind of changed, and all of the sudden something feels good, that's not quite right, so I changed that a little bit. And that helped, but the adjustments I have made have allowed me not only to control it better, but for it to be sharper and better.
Q. When Sonny Gray was in here earlier, he said he wasn't thinking about or watching the great Justin Verlander pitch. I just wondered what was going through your mind as you go deep into the game. Are you thinking to yourself, Gee, this rookie is matching me pitch‑for‑pitch?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: No, you don't think like that, you're hoping for anything, scratch across a run. To be honest with you, I told you before the game that I thought it was going to be close and one run might do it. That's just from watching him.
I go up in the locker room and get out of the atmosphere and try to refocus. So obviously I see the TV footage and his stuff is really, really good. He was executing and throwing strikes and gettin' guys to chase his curveball when he wanted. So that was a big indicator to me that it was going to be a tough night for our guys. And at that point, you hope to scratch across a run.
He doesn't have a huge sample size of Major League experience, but what he's done since he's got here has been very good. So you know he's not just going to go out there and hand the game over to you.