HOUSTON — On the heels of his first career relief appearance in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander was certainly positioned to discuss how pitcher usage changes when the postseason commences.
Verlander will start Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, seeking to deliver the Astros a 2-0 series lead following their 2-1 win in the series opener on Friday. Verlander logged six solid innings in Game 1 of the ALDS before working out of the bullpen in the clincher and allowing one run on one hit over 2 2/3 innings.
“I want to go as deep as possible,” Verlander said. “Every time I take the mound, I have the mentality of trying to go nine. But, hey, I know the playoffs are different. I would like to have the ability to do that, I would like to be rolling and have our team score some runs and (Astros manager) A.J. (Hinch) just kind of let it ride and let me stay out there. I don’t know if that’s the case.
“So it’s kind of a dying breed that the postseason starter going nine innings, especially with the chance of coming back on short rest. I think that’s what’s being protected. But that’s what I want to do, that’s my mentality, and I go out there until the manager takes the ball out of my hand, and sometimes I don’t like it but that’s why he’s the manager.”
The Yankees will counter with right-hander Luis Severino, who has taken a rollercoaster in his first postseason, lasting just 1/3 of an inning in the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins before working seven strong innings in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians.
Severino struggled in both of his starts against the Astros this season, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks over 2 1/3 innings on May 14 at Yankee Stadium before surrendering six runs on nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in Houston on July 2.
“I had to make adjustments,” Severino said. “They hit the ball a lot, so I just know to be careful with the hitters, try to reverse my pitches, try to be down some, because they have power, and try to be consistent with my stuff.”
At just 23 years old, Severino comes with a bit of volatility. He was by most metrics the third-best pitcher in the AL this season, and his uneven performances thus far this postseason have required some nursing by Yankees coaches and his veteran teammates.
“Well, I think (Yankees pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild) talked to him a lot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure some of the other guys got to him and talked to him. And the thing about this game is, Derek Jeter said it great, he said, ‘Stay humble or this game will humble you.’
“And you really have to learn to bounce back in this game. And really, anything in life, any sport, any job, you’re going to have your bad days and you got to learn to bounce back. I think Seve understands that.”