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Astros seek title clicnhing win from World Series flop Verlander

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Houston (AFP)

Houston Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander has won nearly every award Major League Baseball offers, but has endured epic frustration and futility on the sport's biggest stage -- the World Series.

The 36-year-old American right-hander is the first pitcher to lose his first five World Series decisions. His 5.73 earned-run average (ERA) is the fourth-worst of all pitchers with five or more World Series starts.

So when Verlander takes the mound for the Astros in Tuesday's sixth game of Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final, he'll have a chance to break his World Series curse or push it to epic levels.

The Astros ripped Washington 7-1 on Sunday to seize a 3-2 World Series lead and can capture a second title in three seasons for Houston with a game six victory.

Verlander dreams of destiny making his first World Series win a title-clincher.

"That would be a moment I would cherish in my career if that were able to happen," Verlander said.

A loss would force a one-game winner-take-all showdown for the championship on Wednesday in Houston.

The Astros return to Verlander after he lost game two, surendering four runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings, including a homer to Kurt Suzuki.

It was so bad Verlander fell and threw the ball off his leg trying to make a fielding play.

"Excited to get back and play in front of our home crowd," Verlander said.

In defeat, Verlander learned much about the patience and grit of the Nationals batting lineup.

"They are just extremely talented top to bottom," Verlander said. "Their two-strike approach is really good. They prepare very well. They will adjust to that pitcher that given day."

Verlander was undone by poor run support from Houston hitters as well but likes what he has seen from them lately, pounding out 19 runs in three wins at Washington.

"Offense comes and goes, you have slumps, but when they are clicking on all cylinders it's pretty special to watch," he said.

"Hitting is contagious and when these boys are feeling the way they are right now it's tough to get them out."

Verlander reached 200 career playoff strikeouts to set a major league record in game two, but Washington won the game 12-3, adding to his overall World Series futility.

Verlander has surrendered 24 runs on 30 hits over 33 World Series innings and has issued 11 walks and seven homers with 36 strikeouts.

"You need the ball to go your way sometimes," Verlander said. "You win games with offense, but offense comes and goes. Good pitching beats good hitting."

- Third career no-hitter -

Verlander threw his third career no-hitter this season on his way to a 21-6 record, leading the major leagues in wins for a third time.

He had a career-high 300 strikeouts and a 2.58 ERA over 223 innings pitched, most in the major leagues. His hits per inning ratio was among the lowest of the modern era.

Verlander reached his first World Series games with Detroit, where he was voted the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner as top pitcher after leading the league with 24 wins, 250 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA.

Seconds before the 2017 trade deadline, Verlander was sent to Houston and he helped the Astros capture their first World Series title.

His opponent for Washington will be game-two winner Stephen Strasburg.

During the regular season, Strasburg, the top pick of the 2009 MLB Draft, went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, leading the National League with a career high in wins and hurling a career-best 251 strikeouts.

The 31-year-old American right-hander is 4-0 for the Nationals in this year's playoffs with a 1.93 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 28 innings.

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