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Verlander, seeking World Series 1 championship, opening for Astros

HOUSTON –

Justin Verlander was answering questions about his start for the Houston Astros in the World Series opener Friday night when the head of the opposing baseball team walked into the interview room to hold out his hand.

“Where did you start your career again?” Dave Dombrowski, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Phillies, said with a grin.

As Detroit’s general manager, Dombrowski made Verlander the No 2 pick in the 2004 amateur league.

Verlander told the audience: “He’s still wearing the same perfume. “It’s a very different thing. I remember that smell.”

Dombrowski said Verlander has a nose for success, not just fragrance – it’s Paul Sebastian. The 39-year-old right winger is likely to win his third Cy Young Award in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, going 18-4 with a best 1.75 ERA tournament to give him a record of 244-133, a 3.24 ERA and 3,198 shots in 17 seasons.

However, he is still looking for his first World Series win after leading 0-6 with an ERA of 5.68 in his seven starting games.

“This guy threw the ball really well,” Verlander’s former manager in Detroit, Jim Leyland, said in a phone interview. “These guys are human. They can have a bad game every now and then. And if it’s on a big stage, it’s exaggerated a bit.”

Houston beat the Seattle and Yankees in the knockout stages and could join the 1976 Cincinnati Reds (7-0) as the only team unbeaten post-season since the division era began in 1969.

Aaron Nola started for the Phillies, the first third-place team to make it to a Series, and the franchise took home just two titles for Philadelphia – compared to five won by the Athletics before leaving town after 1954.

Houston is in the Series for the fourth time in six seasons and a second in a row under coach Dusty Baker after losing to Atlanta in six games last year. To a sizable segment of fans, Houston’s 2017 champion is remembered as Cheatin’ Astros, the aftermath of a scandal in which Major League Baseball determined Houston used a video camera to signal your opponent’s pitches to your batters.

Verlander is one of five players on the Series roster remaining from the 2017 Astros, along with second player Jose Altuve, third player Alex Bregman, first player Yuli Gurriel and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.

“Dusty and I both want to revisit my first World Series win, his first World Series championship,” Verlander said. “There are games in the World Series that I don’t deserve to win. There were games where I thought I threw well enough for us to win and it didn’t work out. At this point in the season, individual goals like that don’t matter. Try to win the game however you can.”

Verlander will begin his third Series opening. He lost to St. In 2017, he lost game 6 and married supermodel Kate Upton three days after game 7.

“When he was in the minor league system, I said to our broadcaster, Jim Price, I said, ‘Jim, I know this is a high point, but I said I would compare him to him. Nolan Ryan,” Dombrowski recalls.

Verlander throws as hard as he did at his peak, averaging 95 mph this year with his fast ball, 1 mph less than 2009. His position has been refined since he was acquired by the Astros in August 2017.

“He was able to locate that quick ball in the area where it seemed like a good field to hit but they couldn’t get to it,” Leyland said.

Verlander combines sliders and curves, and offers a few changes per game, usually in a pivotal situation.

“One of the things that comes with timing, recording the innings, instinct. I’ve talked to several people before about what I see, and I’ve realized that not everyone sees what I do. I don’t know exactly why. I suppose it was just attention and pitching for a long time. “

He will be on the field with an eight-day break from beating the Yankees in the opening game of the AL Championship Series. Nola, a 29-year-old right-hander who has spent his entire career with the Phillies, lost to San Diego in the NL Championship Series on the same day.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson was no doubt handing the ball to Nola in the first Friday opener in the Series since 1915.

“He really just told me as soon as we stormed into the yard,” Nola recalls Sunday’s pennant hanger. “We hugged and he told me afterwards.”

Thomson, the baseball player who coached the Yankees from 2008-17, moved to the Phillies in 2018 and took over when Joe Girardi was fired on June 3. He was looking to join the Yankees’ Bob Lemon. 1978 and the 2003 Marlins’ Jack McKeon were the only mid-season substitutes to manage a champion. He is the first Canadian to manage a team in the Series.

“I am a proud Canadian and I love my country. I love what we stand for. But to tell you the truth, I’m happy to be managing a team in the World Series,” he said.

Baker noted that he may have a spiritual side this year.

“Last year was the death of Hank Aaron and we also played the Braves. So the way I see it, I like Hank and he loves me and each other so much, he probably started on the Braves last year,” Baker said. “I think he’s backing me up now.”



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