HOUSTON—In the Houston Astros clubhouse Justin Verlander pulled on a suit—a suit, it must be pointed out given the way he had just pitched Saturday, that did not include a cape—and just kept wrenching postseason baseball further back in time, back to long October shadows, Gibsonian glares, Kodachrome snapshots and bullpen doors that never opened.
“Ice?” he replied to a question about arm care after he became only the seventh man to throw a postseason complete game with as few as five hits and as many as 13 strikeouts. The great Bob Gibson had been the first. “No. I never ice.”
Game 2 of the ALCS, a 2-1 victory for Houston over the Yankees, will go down as The Verlander Game. In one of the rarest exhibitions of pitching and purpose the game allows these days, Verlander threw a complete game with 124 pitches, something that had not been done in 10,776 consecutive regular season and postseason starts, dating to 2015. The last of 71 fastballs he threw, his penultimate pitch, was clocked at 96.7 miles per hour.
All of it—the nerve and verve, the hellacious slider made possible by escaping Detroit for the Astros and their state-of-the-art technology, the purpose and re-commitment he found from an undressing three years ago from his manager—all of it Saturday risked the emptiness of a no-decision