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Astros feel the love for newest ace

Verlander 9-0 with 1.23 ERA since trade to Houston
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- There may not be a more popular person right now in the city of Houston than pitcher Justin Verlander, who continued his amazing run with the Astros on Friday night. He's certainly the most popular man in Houston's clubhouse.

"Love him, love him," third baseman Alex Bregman said after Verlander threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Astros a 7-1 win over the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night. The ALCS presented by Camping World will be decided by a Game 7 tonight at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- There may not be a more popular person right now in the city of Houston than pitcher Justin Verlander, who continued his amazing run with the Astros on Friday night. He's certainly the most popular man in Houston's clubhouse.

"Love him, love him," third baseman Alex Bregman said after Verlander threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Astros a 7-1 win over the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night. The ALCS presented by Camping World will be decided by a Game 7 tonight at Minute Maid Park.

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"He's been everything that we could have hoped for and more," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "This guy prepares. He rises to the moment. He's incredibly focused, locked in during games, and emptied his tank tonight. And I'm so proud of him, because I know how much it means to him. I know how much he puts into these outings. He chose to come here for games like this and beyond. We hope we all get to see him pitch again."

Verlander, who improved to 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA in nine games (eight starts) with the Astros since being acquired from the Tigers on Aug. 31, improved to 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA in five career playoff starts in elimination games. He hasn't given up a run in 24 consecutive innings in elimination games, dating to the 2012 AL Division Series with Detroit.

What's more, Verlander joined Hall of Famer John Smoltz as the only pitchers in postseason history with three starts of at least seven innings and zero runs in elimination games.

"I don't think you prepare or think any differently," Verlander said. "I don't really even know how to explain it. The best way for me to explain it is multiple times throughout the game I forget what inning we're in, what's going on around me. My only focus is to execute pitch by pitch. I won't even remember what batter is coming up. My sole focus is focusing on executing my pitches when I want to execute them. But other than that, there's no more prep or anything, no."

Video: ALCS Gm6: Astros on Verlander's clutch performances

After 124 pitches (93 strikes) to beat the Yanks in Game 2 of the series six days earlier, Verlander needed 99 pitches (70 strikes) to finish seven innings in Game 6. He allowed five hits and one walk and struck out eight, moving into sixth place on the all-time postseason strikeout list with 136.

"He was really good again," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "In the two starts we faced him, he hasn't been behind in counts and he's thrown a ton of strikes. I looked up at one point on the board and he had faced like 13 or 14 hitters, and there was like 10 balls and 40-something strikes. I thought our bats were decent off him, we hit some balls hard off him. But again, he was ahead in the count and pitched really effectively."

Video: ALCS Gm6: Verlander fans Hicks after 10 pitches

Verlander said there's no point in holding anything back at this point in the season, especially considering it could have been his final start.

"I'm out there until I'm not out there any longer," he said.

Verlander makes Frazier look silly on swinging K

Video: ALCS Gm6: Verlander's nasty pitches stymies Yankees

When asked if he would be available to give the Astros anything in Game 7, Verlander laughed.

"We'll have this conversation tomorrow," he said.

Tweet from @JustinVerlander: I literally love you too @JoseAltuve27 ������ pic.twitter.com/XubuTnb2w2

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Justin Verlander