HOUSTON -- From the moment he waived his no-trade clause and accepted relocation to Houston, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander was deemed a franchise savior, an ace capable of leading his new club to the promised land of its first World Series championship.
On Friday night at Minute Maid Park, the Astros will hand Verlander the ball with their postseason lives hanging in the balance. Following three consecutive road losses to the New York Yankees, the Astros return home for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on the brink of elimination and with Verlander standing in the gap.
This seemed an unlikely scenario when Verlander delivered a complete-game gem in Game 2 last Saturday, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts in a tense 2-1 victory. Yet now, with its offense scuffling, Houston needs Verlander to be great once more.