Long-awaited first win in World Series 'a heck of a grind' for Verlander

Getty Images

Justin Verlander was relieved his work since his Game 1 start was rewarded with a belated first World Series win on Thursday – even if it was still "a heck of a grind".

Verlander pitched five innings in the Houston Astros' 3-2 Game 5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them a 3-2 series lead.

The nine-time All-Star won the World Series with the Astros in 2017, yet he finished the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 0-1 record.

Verlander did start the Game 2 win versus the Dodgers, but team-mate Chris Devenski was the winning pitcher as the Astros rescued an 11-inning victory.

Heading into Thursday's meeting with the Phillies, Verlander was 0-6 through eight starts in the World Series for his career.

His latest frustration on baseball's biggest stage had seen him depart a Game 1 defeat at 5-5 after five innings.

But Verlander made amends this time, securing a 2-1 lead as he only allowed a Kyle Schwarber leadoff home run from four hits, setting up Ryan Pressly – who closed out a combined no-hitter in Game 4 – to complete the job.

Speaking to MLB Network afterwards, Verlander said he "went back to the drawing board" following his previous start and made the most of the delay in the series after Game 3 was postponed.

"Honestly, the extra day helped me," the 39-year-old said.

"I was able to throw an extra bullpen [because] we got rained out; I threw two bullpens in a row, and I knew I had a lot of work to do. It wasn't easy adjustments, so I needed as many reps as I could.

"After the first few sliders I threw tonight, I was like, 'oh, thank goodness'."

Asked for his thoughts on the long-awaited breakthrough win, Verlander replied: "I don't even know, man. I don't think it's set in yet.

"What an incredible game, first of all. This win, much like most of the wins in my career, doesn't happen without the guys who came in behind me – I only went five innings.

"It was a heck of a grind, especially the first three innings. These guys had a great game plan. After last night, I felt like they completely changed their game plan, were trying to get on top of heaters.

"Thank goodness my slider and curveball clicked, and I was able to lean on those a little bit in the latter half of my outing."