Coming off of a nightmare home stand, the Astros absolutely had to have Monday night's game against the Mariners. They turned to their trusted stallion to carry them in a showdown with Mariners ace Luis Castillo.
As he has done so many times in his Astros career, Justin Verlander answered the bell.
JV turned back the clock in a 5-1 win over the Seattle Mariners, looking every bit like the pitcher the Astros expected to get at the trade deadline.
Verlander had been erratic in the first nine starts of his second stint with Houston. He entered the night with a 3.93 ERA in Houston, at times looking dominant, and at other times looking like a shell of himself.
When the Astros needed him most, Verlander rose to the occasion.
JV completed eight dominant innings, completely shutting down the Mariners. He allowed only three hits and walked one, striking out eight.
He came back out to begin the ninth, but after giving up a leadoff double to Josh Rojas, Dusty Baker emerged from the dugout to give the ball to Bryan Abreu to close the deal.
Rojas did end up coming in to score on a sacrifice fly that was charged to Verlander, but one run or no runs, Verlander did everything that could have been asked of him and then some.
The Astros gave Verlander a 4-0 lead through 3 innings, and in the lone inning Seattle threatened, Verlander mowed down the heart of their order. JV loaded the bases with Astros nemesis Julio Rodriguez stepping into the box as the tying run.
Verlander got Rodriguez to roll over a curveball, grounding into a double play to end the inning and threat. A flyball pitcher by nature, it was only the eighth double play Verlander has induced on the year, but he picked it up when it was needed most.
In a game the Astros desperately needed, their ace delivered. The Astros now have a 1.5 game lead over Seattle for the final wild-card spot.
Their playoff dreams live on for another day, thanks in large part to a dominant showing from the best pitcher in franchise history.