Verlander struck out Nationals outfielder Victor Robles in the second inning for his 200th postseason strikeout, surpassing the mark of 199 set by Smoltz, whose last career appearance in the postseason was in 2009. Smoltz was at Minute Maid Park for the game, working the national telecast for Fox.
Verlander set the mark after another rocky beginning in a World Series outing, a recurring issue for him during his accomplished career. On Wednesday, he gave up a two-run double in the first inning to Washington's Anthony Rendon.
Houston tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Alex Bregman's two-run homer. Verlander gave up Kurt Suzuki's tiebreaking homer to lead off the seventh, and the Astros' bullpen imploded after that, allowing eight runs the rest of the way.
Verlander took the loss, allowing the four runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out six and walking three. His postseason strikeout total stands at 202.
But Verlander dropped to 0-5 in World Series games, marking the first time a pitcher lost his first five decisions on baseball's biggest stage. He has a 5.73 ERA in six World Series starts.
He entered the game tied for third in career postseason wins with 14. Wednesday's game was his 30th postseason appearance.
Following Verlander and Smoltz on the postseason strikeout list is Andy Pettitte (183) and Roger Clemens (173).