PHILADELPHIA — If this was his last outing in a Houston Astros uniform, Justin Verlander will never forget it.
The right-hander finally won his first World Series start after eight unsuccessful attempts, including Game 1 of this matchup against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Astros with Verlander ahead and with two RBIs by rookie Jeremy Peña beat the Phillies 3-2 to go 3-2 in the series, that is, one win away from winning the second Fall Classic in its history.
Verlander allowed the Phillies’ only run on his second pitch of the night; home run by Kyle Schwarber; the first of four hits. He gave up four walks, though he had six strikeouts, including five against the top three in the batting order.
It was far from the cleanest or most dominant start of his season; much less than her career so far. Even Schwarber’s home run made him the pitcher who receives the most home runs in the World Series (10).
But he did enough, he pressed with outs when it seemed that he was struggling to find the strike zone and the rest was taken care of by the relief, with the minimum of offensive support in runs.
“We have complete confidence in Justin,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said before the game. “Everybody wondering if he’s on the leash? No, he’s not on the leash. It’s Justin Verlander. Nobody can get out of trouble better than him.”
Verlander was relieved by Héctor Neris, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly, who held the paltry lead, until in the eighth inning Yordan Álvarez hit a grounder to first, enough to drive José Altuve from third and move Peña to second. .
An inning earlier, the Astros had already had a runner on third with no out and were unable to add to the score. The same happened in the ninety, although in second and first.
The scare came in the penultimate inning, when Montero allowed the Phillies to get closer and they had to call Pressly, who got two outs with runners on third and first, and with great help from the glove of Trey Mancini, who replaced Yuli due to injury. Gurriel in the initial.
Verlander, a favorite to win the Cy Young Trophy, was one of the main reasons the Astros entered the postseason with the best record in the American League.
And this Thursday, he likely brings them home to a championship game that has gone up in smoke in his two previous World Series appearances, 2018 and 2021, and forever to Baker, as a major league manager.
And since before Game 5, his teammates also expressed confidence in Verlander.
“We’ve had faith in him,” Altuve said. “He’s a great pitcher. Not just this year, but his entire career. He’s got Cy Young, MVP (Major League MVP) and all that stuff. … As a team, we’re really happy he’s our guy tonight.”