October 22, 2019
Houston, Texas – pregame 1
Q. How does this team compare to the team two years ago?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, very similar in kind of the core but I think some of the new acquisitions or new young guys that have stepped in are extremely dynamic.
I hesitate to say that this team is better or worse. I think we’re both unique. If we’re able to win this thing maybe then I could say that this team was better. But right now it’s yet to be determined.
Q. What’s it been like for you just to see this run that Gerrit has been on and how tremendous he’s been, just consistently, each time he takes the mound?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, just amazing. It’s been the best run I’ve seen in a starting pitcher in my career. And just incredible to watch just the execution, the stuff. You look at a game like New York in his last start when he didn’t have his best stuff and was still able to go out and dominate. It takes stuff like that to be able to do that because you’re not going to have your best control or your best stuff every single game.
But when you look at the big picture, all of the weapons he has at his disposal to get guys out, when it’s all clicking, it always works; but when it’s not, if you can still make it work and be dominant as he was, it’s pretty special.
Q. Just go over the Nationals lineup and the challenges that they present.
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I think they have a really good mix. They have speed. They have power. They have patience. They have play coverage. I haven’t really done all my homework yet. They present a lot of challenges for a starting pitcher, especially when you’ve got to get them out more than one time in multiple ways. And obviously the two guys that are in the middle have kind of carried them thus far. Tough outs.
Q. How much does it help you that you’ve been there and done that in this situation?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I don’t know if it does. I think you know what to expect out of the nerves and the anxiousness, but it doesn’t make it go away.
Q. The 2014 season, what did you kind of do between then and now to make that pivot and still be as effective as you are at this stage of your career?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I had core surgery in the beginning of January of ’14. So I really — I went out and pitched but I wasn’t healthy, definitely the whole body hurt, arm hurt. So then going into that offseason I made massive adjustments in pretty much everything I do from my body maintenance to my workouts in the offseason to in-season maintenance to my throwing mechanics, and Howie paid attention to all that.
So looking back at it it was probably the lowest point in my career, physically and mentally. But had I not gone through that process, I don’t know if I’d be the pitcher I am now at my age. So honestly, I look back and I’m thankful that I didn’t seriously hurt myself, and I’m also thankful for the lessons I learned in that time.
Q. We know you love Jose Altuve. What makes him a guy you love to have on your team? And what makes him a guy that baseball fans even outside of Houston can love?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: You see the passion he plays with. You see the energy he plays with. You see the fun he has. That’s just the person he is. It’s not a facade. He’s that person in the locker room, he lifts everybody up. He never comes in in a bad mood. He’s always jovial. He’s such a superstar, and he doesn’t act that way. He’s so humble. Always fun to be around. Always wanting to learn and get better. Best teammate. That’s all you can really say about him.
Q. I know your focus is all on you and what you have to do against who you’re pitching to, but on some level do you even think about the opponent and what that guy presents and knowing that the margin of error might be dependent on a particular night?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: You try not to. You get a feel for it in the course of a game. Once the game starts, hopefully I go through my inning and then you kind of see where he’s at, if he’s locked in or not. And this is really kind of routine for any game that you start. Obviously it’s magnified in the postseason. But you kind of get an idea pretty early on if he’s locked in or not, and if it’s going to be a tight ball game, or if one run matters or two runs matter.
So yeah, you do pay attention but you don’t really think about it before the game starts.
Q. Looking back with the perspective of two-plus years, do you think you’ve benefited from the challenge of going to a new team and having to prove yourself in the clubhouse again?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, I mean, I do. I feel very comfortable here and it’s not — I think that’s more of a testament to my teammates than it is anything I did. These guys were tremendous and just made me feel welcome right away.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Personally the motivation, no. I’ve always been extremely self-motivated. I wouldn’t say that that changed anything. Being thrust right in the middle of a playoff run and then finding yourself in the World Series a month later or month and a half later was pretty compelling but it didn’t change anything personally.
Q. You’ve been on this stage before. And I’m sure tomorrow you’ll keep a lot of your routine the same. Will there be anything different tomorrow because it is the World Series, whether that’s how you feel or who’s in town or anything?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, I mean, who’s in town. There’s a lot of family. There’s a lot of stuff going on. But I think at this point my family and I are pretty accustomed to what goes on in the playoffs and they all know, kind of like tonight and tomorrow I’m going to be in my own world and do my own thing and just try to be in my routine as much as possible.
You know that the nerves are going to be higher. Your body knows it’s not a regular start. Going to sleep tonight is not going to be the same as normal. But having done it before, I don’t know if it helps, it’s definitely not going to calm you down any more, but I know what to expect going into it.
And having a routine does definitely help because it’s like from the minute I wake up I kind of start my routine and I guess that kind of helps calm the nerves just a little bit.
Q. On paper does it give the Astros a big advantage with Gerrit pitching on full rest and the Nats not having played in six days?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: On paper, no. I mean, you have to be seen. I don’t know, I’ve been a part of two World Series teams that had a long time off before the series started, and I felt like we came out flat. But there’s also been other teams that had a long time off and came out really hot. Who knows?
I don’t think that should really be a story line. See what happens.
Q. Just off line here from the game, at 36 years old and with 225 wins, we’ve talked about this before, how close do you think at this point you could still get to 300?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: What a time for that question (laughter).
I think I can get pretty darn close. We’ll see. I feel good. Like I said to an earlier question, I think the changes I’ve made the last few years to my body and how I pay attention to things is going to allow me to pitch deeper than I would have otherwise.
It’s definitely a goal of mine.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports