October 12, 2019
Houston, Texas – pregame 1
Q. You made your first playoff start against the Yankees in 2006. What do you remember about that day? And are there any starts you’ve made against them in postseason that stand out above any others?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: That one stands out. I remember the rain situation, with kind of having the game delayed after I was out there warming up, and they were nowhere to be found. I remember going out there the day before the start, and this was old Yankee Stadium, and standing on the mound, because I had never pitched there, standing on the mound and just kind of taking it all in, which was honestly a pretty cool experience.
And then, I mean, I remember Johnny Damon hitting a three-run homer off of me. I remember kind of running out of gas. At that point in the year, my rookie year, I was running on fumes. I gave it everything I had. And I remember I was winning the ball game, which was important winning one in Yankee Stadium.
Q. Just to piggyback off that question, knowing what you know now in 2019, what would you tell the Verlander of 2006 about pitching in the postseason?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Good question. I mean, I think to be aggressive, trust your stuff. You know, honestly there’s nothing I could have really told myself that year. I mean, I really didn’t have anything left in the tank. I’d kind of given everything I had.
I guess the thing I would tell myself then is this isn’t your only shot and keep your head up.
Q. The Yankees have so many different weapons offensively. What sticks out the most to you when you look at their lineup 1 through 9?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I think the power, 1 through 9 is prodigious, and we all know that. They have a bunch of different ways to hurt you. They have speed, they have guys that are really aggressive, they have guys that aren’t. I mean, it’s just a good mix. You have to have a unique game plan for every single guy, and you have to be able to adjust quickly, because they do, as well.
Q. How cool is this for you at the stage of your career, being in this position again, eight wins away from winning it all, four wins away from going to the World Series, and here you are pitching in Game 2?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Very cool. Very happy to be here.
Q. You’ve been outspoken before about the changes to the ball this year and there’s some data that shows it was the reverse direction in the postseason. Have you noticed that at all? Have you talked to the guys at all?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I haven’t. I haven’t personally noticed it. I haven’t really talked to guys about it, especially because when all those reports came back, it was right before Game 5, and I didn’t want the hitters to be talking about that; they had other things on their mind.
I think MLB just came out with a report they haven’t changed, right? I guess we’ve got to believe that, right? I don’t know. Who knows?
Like I said, I said this before, I mean, I think that the players should be involved if the ball is going to change. Who knows if they are or are not. But at the end of the day we are all using the same baseball when we step on the field. As long as it’s an even playing field at this point in the game, that’s all we can ask for.
Q. You talked about the Yankee lineup. You faced a lot of them before, and a lot of good ones. Have you noticed a particular difference? You may not have faced everybody, but LeMahieu and Encarnacion seem to be adding something different to that lineup. Have you noticed anything about the depth of that lineup, and those two specifically?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yes, specifically I think LeMahieu has just been incredible for them. He’s somebody that gets on base at an incredible clip. He hit right around .330 this year and just does so many things so well. And when you can have a lineup behind him with a lot of guys that hit a lot of homers, if he’s on base that much, it just creates that much more damage.
Q. Just as a fan of baseball, if Major League Baseball is able to get to the point where they are able to consciously put specifications on the ball that control how far it flies and that kind of thing, it’s going to have to be a discussion what kind of game do we want to see. Just as a fan, and I know you come at this as a pitcher, but do you have a brand of baseball that you like to see?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, yeah, I don’t think — I think the ball incredibly dictates the game that’s being played on the field that fans witness. I think this year is a great example of this. Stolen base opportunities were down, moving the guy over. All the risks that you would take, unnecessary risks you would view now to have a baserunner get out on a base path, trying to go from first to third, trying to stretch a single to a double they slowly work their way out of the game this season, those small victories that you see throughout the course of a ball game. Because every single batter in the lineup can go deep the next pitch.
When you’re playing in a game where there’s more extra base hits than there were singles, why would you risk that? I understand that.
So for me personally, I would kind of like — I would like to see some of that small ball come back into play. I don’t want to call it small ball, that’s the wrong terminology. Everybody thinks of small ball they think of bunting. I think of the little things; taking the extra bases, using athleticism as a team to get extra runs.
You look at the course of an inning, we’re almost like playing an ADD version of baseball right now, where it’s these huge elation moments, Home run, home run, yeah, yeah. And then you’re just kind of sitting there waiting for the next moment with a bunch of strikeouts in between. If you’re not a fan of strikeouts, then what are you watching?
You think of getting a guy on first base, the next guy hitting ball to right field, that guy going from first to third, that’s a great moment to cheer. The next guy hitting a sac fly, that’s another good moment to cheer.
There’s so many different ways to love this baseball game that I think have kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit, and rightfully so.
Q. Over the course of your career how much do you think the role of the pitching coach has changed and how much more are you coached to prepare now than maybe you were five years ago or six years ago?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I think it’s changed a lot. I think you have to be willing to change with the times. You have to be willing to adapt. And you have to be able to embrace some analytics and the numbers. There’s so much data out there now, not just when it comes to scouting, but when it comes to pitching mechanics and tracking the body and how it’s moving and release points and all of this different stuff. You kind of have to be able to blend it all and at the same time remember the pitching side of it.
We’re not robots. The best pitching coaches I think are able to take the new wave and combine it with the old. I think that’s the best recipe for success.
Q. You’ve become a thorn in the Yankees side during your postseason career. Is there anything about pitching against them that causes you to elevate your performance?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: No. No. I don’t think so. I’d like to say yes but I think I just have put together some good performances in the past.
Q. Just to piggyback off of the pitching coach question, with Zack Greinke coming over on the trade deadline what have you learned from him and vice versa, what do you think he’s learned from you since coming to Houston?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: You’d have to ask him what he learned from me. I think for me — the second he got here I wanted to study how he prepares himself, how he does his scouting reports, what he does in between starts, really everything. And there’s remarkably a lot of similarities is kind of what we’ve learned through our tenure in baseball. But also he looked at some different things that could help me in my scouting reports and I would think vice versa.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports