His six innings of two-run ball would be good on many nights, but they weren’t good enough on this night -- when he could have pushed the Astros to the first World Series title in their 55-year history.
Verlander was undone not by poor pitching but, rather, by a lack of offense and the rules of the National League.
Verlander was not at fault because his offense gave him only one run. He was the loser in the game, as the two sixth-inning runs he allowed were the difference. It was the first time the Astros had lost in Verlander’s 11 outings (10 starts, one relief appearance) since he came to Houston.
Although he didn’t join the legends, he still owns the second-best postseason ERA of any starter in potential clinching games all time (minimum 20 innings). Only Scott McGregor (0.69) has a better mark than Verlander’s 0.78 (23 innings) in such games. The two runs were the first he had allowed in potential clinchers.
Verlander got the batter on strikes for half of his 18 outs. He has 148 strikeouts in 135 postseason innings, which is fourth behind John Smoltz (199), Andy Pettitte (183) and Roger Clemens (173) on the all-time list. But he didn’t have enough Tuesday. He threw 93 pitches, which left open the possibility that he could go out during Game 7. He could probably pitch to only one batter or, maybe in an extreme case, for one inning.
“Right now, I feel great,” Verlander said. “I have to sleep on it.”
Hinch took Verlander out in the top of the seventh with a chance to score. Down a run, with a man on and Verlander at 93 pitches, Astros manager A.J. Hinch turned to Evan Gattis to pinch hit. Gattis beat a double play, but the Astros ended up not scoring. That was the night for Verlander.
If the game had been in an American League park, Verlander would've continued. But with just nine outs left in the game, Hinch could not be patient.
“I thought he was good, especially early,” Hinch said. “He brings so much energy and so much aggressiveness to the game. And I thought he entered the game with that. And I thought he was obviously cruising. He had the one hiccup in the middle of the game, but that was it.”
In the sixth, Verlander fell behind 2-0 to the Dodgers’ No. 8 hitter, Austin Barnes. Barnes lined a single. Next, Verlander grazed Chase Utley with a pitch. Chris Taylor then tied the game by taking a 1-2 pitch the other way for an RBI double. Corey Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right.
That is all Verlander gave up. It wasn’t much, but it was too much.