10/19 00:17 CDT Verlander, Astros can't soar into another World Series.
Verlander, Astros can't soar into another World Series.
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) --- Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros couldn't soar into
another World Series.
A year after Houston won the first title in the team's 56 seasons, Verlander
had a rare off night in an elimination game and the Astros lost the AL
Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox in five games.
"This year's team is better than last year's team," third baseman Alex Bregman
said. "Everyone in here will have a little bit of an edge to play with, a chip
on their shoulder knowing that we believe we should have been back-to-back
Houston boosted its rotation with Gerrit Cole last winter and its bullpen with
Roberto Osuna ahead of the July trade deadline. The Astros won a club-record
103 games, led the majors with a plus-263 run difference and swept Cleveland
3-0 in the Division Series.
But after beating Boston in the opener, the banged-up Astros were outscored
27-14 in losing four in a row. The major leagues remain without a repeat
champion since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
"The World Series is the only thing that was going to make this team feel like
we accomplished much," manager AJ Hinch said. "It's a pretty hollow feeling
when the season abruptly ends the way that it does and the way that it did."
Houston's season ended a day after the Astros were cleared of any wrongdoing by
Major League Baseball after a credentialed Houston employee was caught pointing
his cellphone toward opposing dugouts during playoff games in Cleveland and
Verlander was last year's Championship Series MVP with two wins against the New
York Yankees, including seven scoreless innings to force a game 7.
The Game 1 winner this year, he entered 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA when starting
potential elimination games with Detroit and Houston. He had pitched 26
scoreless innings in such situations before J.D. Martinez's go-ahead solo home
run in the third.
"We had a good season. Didn't end up where we wanted. We lost to a great team,"
Verlander said. "I said it last year, playoffs, it's kind of flip a coin
sometimes. It's whoever is playing the best baseball at the time. We were
dealing with a ton of injuries as you could tell."
Verlander wasn't the only Houston player who didn't measure up to his 2017 form.
Altuve, a six-time All-Star and last year's AL MVP, went on the disabled list
for the first time in July with right knee soreness. He never seemed healthy,
banged the knee in the playoffs and was limited to a designated hitter in the
last three games. He hit .250 in the series with two RBIs.
"It's not a secret that my knee was hurting pretty bad," Altuve said. "But it's
something that I don't have control of. It hurts and I couldn't control being
healthy. I feel really, really bad for not being on the field for my team but
one thing you can know is that I gave everything I had, healthy, not healthy
that was all I have."
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa dealt with back issues much of the second half
of this season. While he had three hits and two RBIs in Game 4 --- his only
multi-hit game this postseason --- he hit a relatively quiet .316 with three
RBIs against the 108-win Red Sox.
Right-hander Charlie Morton was a first-time All-Star and won 15 games, but he
dealt with shoulder issues the second half of the season, and Lance McCullers
Jr. also was pitching hurt.
Morton is among the potential free agents for the Astros. That group also
includes former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, catchers Brian McCann and
Martin Maldonado, and utility player Marwin Gonzalez.
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