By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Verlander brought the heat.
With fastballs, then fury.
Upset that his Astros had blown a two-run lead in the 10th inning, the Houston ace stormed from the clubhouse to the dugout in gym clothes before the 11th to talk to his teammates.
To holler at them, more like it.
His message: “Stay positive. Remember how good you are.”
Good enough to hang tough and win a thrilling Game 2 of the World Series. The Astros outlasted Los Angeles 7-6 Wednesday night and left Dodger Stadium with things tied at one game each.
Verlander threw six strong innings, allowing just two hits. The no-decision let him remain 9-0 since being traded from Detroit to Houston on Aug. 31.
Maybe more than his pitching, it was his perfect timing that spurred the Astros.
It wasn’t quite the calm, reassuring talk that Boston star David Ortiz delivered in the dugout during a moment in the 2013 World Series at St. Louis. But, it seemed to have the same effect.
“I don’t even know if anybody heard me,” Verlander said.
Oh, they did.
Asked what Verlander shouted, star shortstop Carlos Correa quoted him.
“Let’s,” Correa said, pausing for effect to omit a certain word, “go!”
Just what the Astros expect from the big guy, a former MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
“He was loud. He was firm. He’s a leader,” Correa said.
Verlander, who’s 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in World Series play after this no-decision, exited with Astros trailing 3-1. Moments after a close, full-count pitch was called a ball with two outs in the sixth, Corey Seager hit a two-run homer.
Going into the late innings, especially against the deep Dodgers relief corps, it was starting to look dire for the slumping Astros.
But not to Verlander. He kept exhorting his club, telling the team it wasn’t nearly over.
“It’s so easy in this game to get down, especially when — I mean, we have the TV on before the games. You see everyone saying how great this Dodger bullpen is and how our offense hasn’t been going,” he said.
“It’s so easy to say, man, we’re probably not going to win this game, down two against one of the best bullpens in baseball. I just wanted to really remind these guys how great they are.”
Houston was the highest-scoring team in the majors this year. On this evening, the Astros and Dodgers combined for a Series-record eight home runs.
So being down going into the late innings wasn’t worth worrying about.
“This team, since I’ve been here, and I know it hasn’t been that long, but two runs is nothing,” Verlander said. “And all of a sudden two runs seemed like it was the Grand Canyon.”
And now, with a boost from Verlander’s voice, the Astros aren’t in a big hole, either.
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