1) 2017 ALCS Game 2
Words do not describe how masterful Justin Verlander was on October 14, 2017. Up 1-0 in the ALCS over the New York Yankees, JV showed exactly why Houston acquired him at the waiver deadline.
He had been masterful through eight, but had already thrown 109 pitches. When he climbed out of the dugout to throw the ninth, the roof blew off of Minute Maid Park. Verlander successfully navigated the top half of the inning, but when Verlander completed his ninth inning of work, he went back to the dugout tied 1-1. Houston's offense had been unable to offer the ace any support. An effort of this caliber simply could not result in a no decision.
Thankfully, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and an indescribably risky send from Garry Pettis ensured that would not be the case.
Correa's walk-off double gave Houston a 2-0 lead in the series and Verlander the win. JV walked away with a complete game victory, yielding five hits and one run, striking out 13. He faced 32 batters and threw 124 pitches, almost an unfathomable amount in today's game.
Playoff games today are managed with the bullpen constantly in mind. Starters are asked to get through the lineup twice before handing the ball to a bevy of high 90's flamethrowers with obscene off-speed pitches. Only in the most dominant of outings will we see a starter make it through an order three times.
We just watched Cristian Javier get pulled after six hitless innings in Game 4 of the World Series this season on only 97 pitches. If an old school manager like Dusty won't allow a starter to go deeper than that in a pitch count, who will?
We may never again see an effort in the postseason like Verlander delivered that afternoon. As time goes on, the gem will age even better. In a six year span filled with memory after memory and dominant start after dominant start, this one sits above the rest.
Thanks for the memories, JV. You'll be sincerely missed!