(Reuters) - Justin Verlander will try to lift the Houston Astros once again when he takes the mound on Wednesday, aiming to stop his team from falling into a precarious 2-0 World Series deficit against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Verlander has been a picture of durability since joining the Astros at the end of August. But he faces his toughest task yet as he tries to extend one of the more impressive runs in postseason history.
Thankfully for the Astros, the six-time All-Star and former Cy Young Award winner as the American League's best pitcher has seemingly always managed to find another gear when it comes to Major League Baseball's postseason.
"The mental focus is just another level. It's something that would be easy to say, 'Why don't you just do that every game?' It's unsustainable throughout the course of the regular season," said Verlander. "If you were that mentally focused, you'd just burn out. It's just another level."
He will need to be at his best at Dodger Stadium, though, if he hopes to flip the script a day after Clayton Kershaw shut down the potent Astros with a signature pitching performance that gave Los Angeles a 3-1 win in the opener to the best-of-seven games series.
Justin Verlander through his career
Justin Verlander through his career
DETROIT - APRIL 10: Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers watches from the dugout during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on April 10, 2006. The White Sox defeated Tigers, 5-3. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of their MLB interleague baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago June 17, 2006. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander pitches to the New York Yankees during Game 2 of their American League Division Series playoff baseball game in New York October 5, 2006. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander speaks as he is announced as starting pitcher for Game 1 of the World Series prior to practices in Detroit, October 20, 2006. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander walks to dugout after striking out in fifth inning against the St Louis Cardinals in Game 5 in Major League Baseball's World Series in St Louis October 27, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander waves a towel at the fans, that he used to wipe shaving cream off him smeared on by teammate Todd Jones, following Verlander's no-hitter victory over the Milwaukee Brewers during their Interleague MLB baseball game in Detroit, Michigan June 12, 2007. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander winds up a first inning pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the Royals Home Opener MLB American League baseball game in Kansas City, Missouri, April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander stands on the field with former Tigers pitcher Virgil Trucks during a pre-game ceremony before their American League MLB baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Detroit, Michigan July 8, 2007. Verlander threw the first no-htter last month in Detroit since Truck's no-hitter against the Washington Senators in Detroit in 1952. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander smiles after he threw a complete game no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in their MLB baseball game in Toronto May 7, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (L) and Victor Martinez celebrate after their team defeated the New York Yankees in Game 5 of their MLB American League Division Series baseball playoffs at Yankee Stadium in New York, October 6, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge (L) and pitcher Justin Verlander watch the action against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning of Game 6 of MLB's ALCS baseball playoffs in Arlington, Texas, October 15, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander is congratulated by manager Jim Leyland after pitching a complete game against the Kansas City Royals during their MLB American League baseball game in Kansas City, Missouri, April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander heads in from the bullpen for the start of Game 1 of the MLB World Series baseball championship against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander celebrates in the locker room after they defeated the Oakland Athletics during Game 5 in their MLB ALDS playoff baseball series in Oakland, California October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander sits in the dugout during the second inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Apr 8, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (35) prior to the game against the Minnesota Twinsat Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Model Kate Upton (L) and Major League Baseball pitcher Justin Verlander (R) pose at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Art+Film Gala in Los Angeles, October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
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Verlander certainly has the postseason pedigree. Dating back to 2011, he is 10-3 with a 2.40 earned run average, 113 strikeouts and 26 walks in 16 postseason outings.
The longtime Detroit Tigers pitcher, who joined Houston in hopes of winning an elusive World Series ring, was also named the MVP of the AL Championship Series on Saturday after allowing just one earned run in 16 innings versus the New York Yankees.
Verlander, 34, said when the stakes are at their highest in October he generally gets so deep into a zone that he manages to tune out everything around him.
"There are times throughout the course of the game where I lose track of where we're at in the game and don't really know what's going on," said Verlander.
"It's just my sole focus even between innings is thinking about what I can do to execute and thinking about what pitches I should throw and what I've seen and what my instincts are telling me. You're just that much more focused on the task at hand."