Justin Verlander is taking the hill for the Astros with the chance to win the MLB World Series and that is exactly what Houston wants. But could manager A.J. Hinch have another ace up his sleeve to help close out six game? He is certainly not ruling it out.
The Astros lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 following Sunday's thrilling 13-12 walk-off victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I think it's a possibility," Hinch said Tuesday. "I think all bets are off. You just try to win the game. I think saving things for the unknown is probably not the way to go."
But first and foremost, game six starts with Verlander.
The Astros acquired the 34-year-old starting pitcher at the trade deadline for games just like this one. He 9-0 in 10 games (nine starts) with 72 strikeouts since arriving from the Detroit Tigers.
"There's something different when you put a major piece like that in your clubhouse," Hinch said. "And I think his presence alone gave guys hope and belief that things were going to be good for us when we had two months left in the season.
"We hadn't won the division or done anything yet. But I think his demeanour, his preparation, his personality, his performance, all raised the bar for the organisation. And I think we expected that. We knew he would have a big role on this team."
Verlander said he came to Houston to win a World Series prior to his game-six win over the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and he has a chance to be the winning pitcher on Tuesday.
"I think this stage is set," Hinch said. "Obviously he's such a big-time pitcher. And we want him to step up and do well. And he's prepared to do that. I think being the pitcher in the game-clincher -- or the division-clincher, was too good to be true. It happened and he pitched great. The Game 6 against the Yankees, where we needed him to get us to a game seven he stepped up, he was big.
"Why not have a third time where we've needed him to step up and lead this energy that's going to be in our dugout? We have nobody better to have there."
Verlander has not lost an elimination game since he was a rookie in 2005. He now has a chance to eliminate the Dodgers.
"I've waited my whole life for this," Verlander told USA Today. "It's everything I always wanted. You dream of a night like this."
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