Yankees face Verlander, Astros (May 28, 2018)
It never materialized, and Justin Verlander was a significant reason why the Yankees fell short of competing for a championship.
The Yankees get another crack at Verlander on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game series with the defending World Series champions.
"I look at them as a great team and obviously what they're doing from a starting pitching standpoint you can't help but take notice," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We know these next few days we're going to face some great pitching, so we're going to have to be at our best offensively to just try and generate some offense against them.
"So any time you're up against a team like that that's throwing the ball the way they are, it's a little bit of a barometer. We look forward to that challenge. We look forward to playing in those type of games and I look forward to seeing our guys go out there and hopefully do what we've done most of the year, and that's make it very tough on opposing starters."
The Yankees were one win from reaching the World Series after taking Game 5 5-0, but then ran into Verlander for the second time in the American League Championship Series. Verlander struck out 13 in a five-hitter in Game 2 and then helped the Astros stave off elimination when he scattered five hits in seven innings of a 7-1 win in Game 6.
Verlander might have been even better the last time the Yankees faced him on May 1. He had 14 strikeouts on 105 pitches in eight innings, but when Ken Giles replaced him, Gary Sanchez helped the Yankees to a 4-0 win by hitting a three-run homer in the ninth inning.
Besides the three games against the Yankees with the Astros, Verlander is on an exceptional roll since being obtained from the Detroit Tigers shortly before the waiver trade deadline on Aug. 31.
He is 11-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 16 regular-season starts. Including his postseason performances, the veteran right-hander is 15-3 with a 1.36 ERA for Houston.
Overall, Verlander is 6-2 with a 1.08 ERA this season. Since joining the Astros, opponents are hitting .156 against him.
Verlander last pitched Wednesday in a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants when he allowed one run and three hits in six innings. He struck out nine and issued one walk.
"I was probably a little rusty," Verlander said after his last start. "But overall was able to execute pitches when I needed to against a really good lineup that makes you work hard."
Verlander has completed at least six innings and allowed two runs or less in his last nine outings. It is the longest streak by an Astros pitcher since Mike Scott set the record with 14 in his Cy Young season of 1986.
Verlander's success also goes back to his last month with the Tigers. Since July 30, he is 20-4 with a 1.54 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings.
In the regular season against the Yankees, Verlander is 6-7 with a 3.61 ERA in 19 starts. At the current Yankee Stadium, he is 1-4 with a 4.38 ERA in eight starts.
Besides figuring out how to generate offense against Verlander or work his pitch count, the Yankees will attempt to figure out how to get out Jose Altuve, who is hitting .330 and leads the AL with a .400 average (46-for-115) in road games.
While the Yankees improved to 15-3 in their last 18 home games with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, Altuve went 4-for-6 in an eventual 10-9, 14-inning loss at Cleveland. He set a team record with 10 straight hits, but Houston blew a five-run lead in the ninth and a one-run lead in the 13th, and took its third loss in 11 games.
Domingo German was one of the reasons the Yankees had a chance to win in their last encounter with Verlander. German will make his fourth start of the season on Monday and ninth appearance after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings of Tuesday's 6-4 loss at Texas.
German faced the Astros after Jordan Montgomery exited after the first inning with a strained left elbow on May 1. He pitched four scoreless innings and was inserted into the rotation for Montgomery, who played catch Saturday and is progressing.