HOUSTON -- Whenever Justin Verlander decides to call it a career -- and there are no indications that is coming anytime soon -- he won’t need to do anything extra to prove that he’s a worthy Hall of Famer. That was decided a while back, as he racked up no-hitters and Cy Youngs and day-to-day sheer dominance over a 17-year career that is still going strong.
But there is one small item that he hasn’t been able to cross off the list. While Verlander has a World Series ring as a member of the 2017 Astros, he, maybe somewhat weirdly, has never logged a personal World Series win, despite starting eight games in the Fall Classic.
That “streak” continued on Friday after he started the Astros' 6-5 loss in Game 1 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park and left with it tied. A start that began with so much promise -- he was perfect through three innings -- unraveled in the fourth and fifth. Instead of celebrating finally getting into the World Series win column, this one will be remembered similarly to his prior seven starts in the Fall Classic: disappointing.
That was the exact word the 39-year-old righty used to sum it up.
“My team gave me a five-run lead and I wasn't able to hold it,” he said. “I feel really confident that 99 percent of the time that I'm able to hold that lead and unfortunately today I wasn't.”
Including the five runs he allowed over five innings in Game 1, Verlander’s cumulative World Series ERA is now 6.07 -- the highest among any pitcher with at least 30 innings pitched. Carl Erskine is behind him at 5.83, followed by Don Sutton (5.26), Gary Nolan (4.96) and Al Leiter (4.59).
The Astros’ undefeated postseason looked to be a sure bet to continue early in Game 1, with the Astros leading by such a large margin and Verlander cruising through the first three innings. But then he ran into a whole mess of trouble in the fourth and wound up facing eight Phillies hitters, yielding three runs.
“A lot of credit to them as a lineup,” Verlander said. “They laid off some good pitches and they were able to, when I did execute pitches, they were able to foul it off or put it in play and find a couple hits that way. Then when I did make a mistake, they hit it hard.
“They have a great lineup, they have been hot, and we knew that coming in. To cool them off, I feel like you have to execute.”
Some of this could have been avoided with a little luck, too -- he had recorded one out when J.T. Realmuto sent a line drive back to the mound, right to his mitt. The ball bounced in and out of the glove, and dropped. It would have been an easy double play had Verlander held on, given Rhys Hoskins was already moving toward second and easily would have been doubled off.
Instead, Verlander threw to first for one out. He faced five more batters before recording the next one.
“They had a number of two-out hits that one inning,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Most of them were on breaking balls. … They're a good offensive club. We knew they could hit when we came in here, and they're known for that. They just took it from us tonight.”
Verlander yielded doubles to Brandon Marsh and Realmuto and allowed two more runs in his fifth and final frame, one that required 33 pitches to complete.
“I need to do better,” Verlander said. “No excuses. I just need to execute pitches better. I felt like I had some guys in good situations and just wasn't able to quite make the pitches that I wanted to.”