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October 29, 2017

Justin Verlander

Houston, Texas - pregame 5

Q. You've been very open and comfortable talking about the baseballs this year. We talked about the increased home run rate and now a story by Tom Verducci is talking about the slickness of the baseballs. What would you like done about the baseballs that MLB is putting out there?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I don't know what I'd like done. I think anybody, all you can ask for is consistency. I think over the years the numbers speak for themselves. I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true. Whether he has the say-so or not, I don't know.

But I think we just want consistency. Whether the balls are juiced or not, hey, I'm pitching with the same ball everybody else is pitching with. That's a fair and even playing field.

But I think the main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls. They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, hey, something is different here. I think as a whole everybody is saying, whoa, something is a little off here.

So on one hand you can have somebody say that manufactures the ball, they're not different. And on the other hand you can say that the people that have held a ball in their hand their entire life, saying it's different, you value one over the other. You take your pick.

Q. Two parts to this: No. 1, you seem to relish these high-leverage situations, no matter where the series stands for tomorrow's start. And No. 2, what impresses you the most about this Dodger hitting lineup?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, yeah, these are what it's all about. These are the moments that you want to be a part of as a baseball player. It's everything you could ask for. And like you said, Game 6, it's either win it to stay alive or win it to win it all. Either way, it's going to be pretty intense.

And what was the second part?

Q. What impresses you about the Dodger hitting lineup?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: The whole lineup from top to bottom. They're so deep, they're so talented. They've got a great mix of guys that hit home runs and guys that really can battle you and not strike out and put the ball in play and do the little things.

They've got a good mix of veteran guys over there that have a lot of information over time, that they could share with some of the rookies. It's very, I think, similar to our ballclub. You've got the right mix of veterans with younger talent. The younger talent is wise beyond their years and playing like veterans. It's a lot of fun to be part of a World Series where two teams are so evenly matched, in my opinion.

Q. Your teammates with Alex Bregman for two months, what have you learned about his game, and does he remind you of anybody you played with or against before?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: He's a ballplayer, and that's kind of one of the ultimate compliments you can give a baseball player. He's just a ballplayer. He does everything you can possibly do to help us win. He's not scared at all. I think you can see in some of the defensive plays he's made and some of the home runs he's hit against the pitchers that he hit them against, he thrives in big moments. When the pressure is on he's a guy you want in your corner. It's been really incredible to see how mature he is as a baseball player for how young he is since I got here.

And as far as someone he reminds me of, maybe Pedroia, that type of kind of just gritty ballplayer.

Q. Is there any difference about your approach mentally, physically, if you're pitching Tuesday in a clinching situation or in an elimination game?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: No, no change. Take the ball, try to win.

Q. There's an emphasis these days among some hitters about lofting the ball, trying to hit it higher, launching, et cetera, how do you and other pitchers try to take advantage of that?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Well, you know, I think with that -- there's always holes in a hitter's swing, I think you just try to find them, and you try to execute your pitches. You try to balance your strengths, their weaknesses and really what I think what it comes down to when you're out there on the mound is trusting your instincts, and finding what is working for you that day, what you have a good feel for, and executing those pitches.

As far as lifting the ball, it seems more and more people are starting to try to do that. It makes sense, we kind of touched on the balls; why not try to lift them? But as far as your approach against that type of offensive approach, I think when I'm out there it comes down to execution of what I have a good feel for that day. And sometimes in certain situations you're trying to think of what the best pitch to induce a ground ball can be.

Q. I don't want to belabor the ball thing. I'm curious, we're talking about slickness, is it simply a matter of more mud, better mud, mud application or is there a broader element that I just don't understand?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I'm assuming it's the same mud. I think -- actually I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played. I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing.

Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I've had a lot of different balls rubbed up by different people over my career. You get some that are a little darker, some a little lighter, more mud, less mud. That's pretty normal.

Q. You give your all every start out, but do you think even since the trade in the last two months, given pennant race games, postseason, your intensity level picks up somehow over what it was the first five months?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Absolutely. I think the level of focus and intensity does go up. It especially goes up in the playoffs. I think that that's something that you just can't sustain that over a full season. And I think I touched on this a week or so ago, but you'd be burnt out. You can't focus that much mental energy and physical drain on hanging on every single pitch that way and the crowd and the intensity, that it all encompasses, you just can't do that every single day out for 34, 35 starts. But as soon as the postseason starts you're living or dying on every single pitch, and your whole team is living or dying on every single pitch. It changes everything.

Q. Just along those lines, I'm sure you've heard a million times during your career that your teammates have the ultimate faith in you when they hand you the baseball. Given the circumstance, does that resonate a little bit more that you're new here and that every one of your teammates tell us that, and they can't wait to see you do your thing, given the circumstances?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, that does mean a lot. As a baseball player you always appreciate the respect of your teammates in the clubhouse, on the field, in all aspects. We're like a family. We spend so much time together. For them to say that about me, that means a lot, because I take a lot of pride in going out there.

Win, lose or draw -- well, there is no draw in baseball, win or lose, I think that's what my teammates understand is that I'm giving -- there's no preparation or thing that I could do to possibly try to be any better. I've given everything I possibly can and prepared as best I possibly can, and I think that's all you can ask for as a teammate.

Q. Now that you've had almost a week here, had an up-close look at the Dodger hitters, anything take you by surprise about anybody in particular or their lineup in general?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: No, not really. I think throughout the course of the season you can -- there's so much you can study. You can try to figure guys out. I heard Bellinger say that he tried to go opposite field in batting practice for the first time ever yesterday. So I guess that's different for him. But that's normal throughout the game of baseball, people make adjustments. One way or the other, pitchers make adjustments to hitters, and hitters make adjustments to pitchers. As a whole, these guys have their swings. They have their strengths, I have my strengths. I think we all know each other pretty well at this point.

Q. There's a lot of talk about the weather in Los Angeles, how the heat might have had an impact on the run environment in games 1 and 2. The high for Tuesday is supposed to be 69 degrees, a lot cooler. How much of a difference do you think that would make?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I don't know. I haven't played much in LA. That's a question for the Dodgers. They're way more used to the weather than I am. That's pretty crazy the weather changes that much in four days.

Q. You had success against the Dodgers back in August. And I remember you said the way that you pitched them was to attack and not let them breathe. Did you use the same game plan the first time around in this series, and did you pass that along to some of the other starters in this series, because they seem to have had success?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I think as a whole that's a good game plan to have against most teams, especially teams like the Dodgers. That was the game plan I had against the Astros, when I pitched against them. Lineups that are this deep, this talented, you just have to stay on top of them. If they kind of get the momentum rolling, get the ball rolling, get a couple of base hits and a walk and another base hit, then they're vibing off of all that.

You can't ease up at any moment against these guys, especially if you get the momentum on your side. You've just got to continue to attack. And you know what, if it lends to lending to a home run or hard hit ball, rather take my chances of attacking rather than nibbling around these guys. I think nibbling is how you get in trouble.

Q. I wonder if you have any special way of coping with pressure. And I wonder when the trade happened, you started so strong here. Was it a different kind of pressure than maybe you felt other times in your career with a new club?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, I think the best way to cope with pressure is routine. I don't know whether that's something I do different than anybody else. But my routine specifically on game day is so ingrained in my mind and my body that I think that really helps kind of put me at ease. Now, you're going to have the anxiousness, you're going to have the nerves, you're going to have those feelings. Those don't go anywhere. But you can always rely on your routine to kind of just comfort yourself. And I guess that's the only thing you can do.

There's no special way, there's no special recipe, you either deal with it or you don't. I'm going to find a way to deal with it.

Q. Through the years why do you think baseball makes it so difficult on pitchers, going all the way back to lowering the mound, changing the baseball, now, all these different things? Is it because they want more offense, what are your thoughts on it?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Yeah, I think it's pretty clear. I think our Commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star Break of '15, or right before, when he said that.

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