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.
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 and swept Cleveland 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.”
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
He 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.
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 also was pitching hurt.
Source: The Associated Press