LOS ANGELES — Justin Verlander was a horse in the American League Championship Series, as Yankees fans can attest.
The righthander, acquired by the Astros just before the Aug. 31 trade deadline, threw 124 pitches over nine innings of a 2-1 victory in Game 2 of the series. Then, with the Astros trailing three games to two, he threw seven shutout innings in a 7-1 victory in Game 6.
And, note to the Dodgers: The 34-year-old righthander, who will start Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night, feels spring-training fresh.
“I attribute a lot of feeling strong for a whole season to what I do in the offseason,” Verlander said before Tuesday’s Game 1. “I’m a big believer that . . . in season I really limit my workouts. I tailor them to what I think is most necessary in season, which is recovering.”
Verlander was having a good season when the Tigers dealt him to the Astros (10-8 with a 3.82 ERA), but not a great one. Suddenly playing for a contender clearly did something for the veteran, maybe even more than his offseason conditioning.
Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts with the Astros and is 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA this postseason, which includes one relief appearance in the Division Series against Boston.
Verlander made his postseason debut in 2006 at the age of 23 (against the Yankees) and pitched in the playoffs four straight years from 2011-14.
But the Tigers finished last in the AL Central in 2015, just missed on a wild-card berth in 2016, and were headed for another last-place finish this season when, at the last minute, he OK’d the trade to the Astros. Needless to say, it could not have worked out better for either party.
“I actually got a text from my trainer yesterday saying, ‘It’s funny, this time last year we were in the gym getting after it right now, and here you are in the World Series,’ ” Verlander said. “Crazy how things can change in a year.”