HOUSTON — There is a certain quality that Justin Verlander has, his manager said. It’s an ability that allows him to be better than normal when his team needs him most.
“You can’t teach that,” A.J. Hinch said. “And you can’t buy it. You have to have it or you don’t. And Verlander has it.”
As of late Saturday night, Verlander also has something else: the ALCS Most Valuable Player trophy. He was voted the top performer after the Astros won Game 7 against the Yankees, propelled by Verlander’s 2-0 record and 0.56 ERA in two starts.
So Verlander will always be a part of the history of a team that he joined only about 50 days ago. He feels as if he has been here for years.
“From top to bottom, from ownership down to every single member of this organization and every teammate immediately welcomed me,” Verlander said after his team beat the Yankees, 4-0, in the finale. “It wasn’t just, ‘Hey, glad to have you.’ It was a different type of feeling. I felt like I bonded with every single person on this team almost immediately. For many different reasons.
“The pitchers — I’ve really enjoyed talking to a lot of them, with them just kind of picking my brain and me picking their brain. And then the position players, man, it’s something special to see these guys play. I made a point to let them know that.”
Having been to the World Series with the Tigers, he knows that all of the Astros will share this moment as long as they live.
His teammates made a point of letting him know how much it meant that he salvaged their season in Game 6 Friday. Hinch said that since the Aug. 31 trade with the Tigers, “Justin Verlander was probably the best pitcher in baseball.”
“For him to come to this city and to this team, to recognize the opportunity and then go out and do it is pretty impressive,” Hinch said. “I think I’ve seen an incremental increase in every facet of our game since he arrived. That kind of impact is hard to articulate. It’s also hard to get.”