Justin Verlander: The Astros’ Perfect Game

Houston’s Justin Verlander Struggles in the World Series. Again.

At the end of the Houston Astros’ three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs, the Astros celebrated as if they had won. The celebration came from players and fans alike. But the celebration was short-lived. Because the celebration came from Justin Verlander, who got the opportunity to do what he always does.

Verlander did exactly what he always does. He threw every pitch of this World Series for a perfect game. With two outs in the ninth inning—in which he threw the final out of the first nine innings—Verlander delivered a pitch that he had not thrown in months.

The ball hit the bat of catcher Derek Norris and flew through the air toward the stands, where Verlander’s teammates and fans erupted, screaming “Game!” in unison.

Not only was the ball not a perfect game, it was a perfect first pitch.

It should have been the perfect start to the World Series. Verlander faced only one pitcher during the Series. He dominated that pitcher, striking out eight in seven innings. He looked as if he was making his best start of the season.

But then a ball hit him from behind the plate. A ball hit him from behind the plate, bounced off his right foot and landed on the mound. Not a perfect game. Not yet.

The Astros had been waiting for a perfect game from Verlander all season. In 2016, the Astros waited for a perfect game from Justin Verlander. Verlander won the Cy Young Award. And in the World Series he beat the Cubs, giving the Astros the first World Series championship in franchise history.

This World Series is different. Verlander is not the same pitcher. The Astros’ fans are accustomed to a Verlander who can carry them through a game. This year, Verlander’s fans are not used to him being perfect—for weeks.

“A lot of people don’t know how I started this season,” Verlander says. “When I went on that rehab assignment, I was about to go on a rehab assignment, and I threw a first-pitch strike to [cat

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