Verlander Looks to Erase the One Dark Cloud Haunting Otherwise Marvelous Career

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Justin Verlander has enjoyed a Hall-of-Fame caliber career. He has made eight All-Star Appearances, won an AL Cy Young Award, AL MVP Award and a World Series ring.

Now he gets a chance to win the clinching game for what would be the second World Championship in the 58-year history of the Astros.

“I mean, hard to put into words,” said Verlander, an in-season acquisition from the Tigers in August 2017. “It’s one of those things that in the moment, right now while we're grinding, trying to win it, you don't really think about it. It probably wouldn't even cross my mind or sink in until the offseason sometime.”

And most likely it will sink in the quickest and most enduring way if he can earn a victory on Tuesday night -- a victory that would be the first World Series win in the career of a pitcher, who is 14-5 in 24 starts in the post-season warmups to the World Series -- the Division Series, AL Division Series and AL Championship Series -- and is 225-119 lifetime in the regular season.

His lack of success in the World Series is a puzzle. Not only is he 0-5 in the six World Series Starts, but he has a 5.73 ERA. This from a pitcher who with the retirement of C.C. Sabathia becomes the winningest active pitcher in MLB at 225-129 with a 3.33 ERA. The only other active pitcher with 200 wins is teammate Zack Greinke (205-123).

And consider that David Price's 150 career wins -- 75 fewer than Verlander -- ranks 10th among active pitchers.

But a World Series win?

It's missing.

It could be fulfilled on a night that would touch off a huge celebration among his teammates, the Astros management team and most of all, the Astros fan base. That would only add to the meaning for Verlander.

“This would be a nice little bullet point on a résumé that's headed towards Cooperstown,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “If he can add a season-clinching, World Series-clinching win, count me in.”

It's not like he has struggled against the Nationals in the few times he has faced them in interleague play.

He is 34-8 with a 2.81 career ERA against the NL in the regular season, and has won both his regular-season starts against the Nationals, allowing just 11 hits and four runs in 14 innings of two starts.

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