Justin Verlander's struggles against Yankees could come back to haunt Astros

Justin Verlander is a great pitcher, but the New York Yankees are his kryptonite.
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros were knocked around by the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, falling on the wrong side of a 10-3 scoreboard. Most of the blame was (rightfully) directed at Justin Verlander, the 41-year-old ace who entered the game with an impressive 2.08 ERA across three starts.

It is said that the third time is the charm. They don't tell you about the fourth time.

Verlander has seldom "looked his age," but he did on Tuesday in the Bronx. In five innings, he allowed eight hits and three walks, which led to seven earned runs for the Yankees. Verlander fell to 1-1 on the season, registering his first loss. His ERA now sits at 4.43 with a 1.388 WHIP. Not so impressive.

After the game, Verlander was introspective and honest in his assessment of the game, which served as a wake-up call for the 19-year MLB vet.

"They had a great approach and I wasn’t very good. If I’m being really honest with myself, I think, like, the last couple games, probably, particularly the walks kind of showed me I was a little off. ... I think these guys showed me today that I have some work to do. I gotta be more deceptive." (via Michael Shapiro, Houston Chronicle)

It's good to see Verlander address the issue and vow to improve, but this is an ongoing theme that could come back to haunt the Astros.

Astros' Justin Verlander continues to get belted by the Yankees

If this was a flash in the pan, fine. You pull yourself up and move on. Unfortunately, this has been the season from hell for Houston. The Astros are 12-23 after the loss, dead last in the AL West. That is right — dead last, behind Oakland and the Shohei Ohtani-less Angels. Dusty Baker's retirement was always notable, but few could have predicted such a major slide.

It's early in the season, so Houston still has time to collectively rebound. Even in his self-described "little off" period, Verlander has been mostly excellent on the mound. In his age-41 season, he has every incentive to win games and put his best foot forward. Time is running out to add another ring to his collection.

The Yankees, however, have emerged as Verlander's kryptonite. The reason isn't entirely clear. Maybe it's location. Maybe it's a certain stretch of bats. Maybe it's psychological. Or, maybe it's all noise. Whatever the case may be, however, Verlander has been strikingly prone to letdowns against New York over the last two years.

He is 1-3 in his last five starts against the Yankees, for starters, allowing eight home runs and 16 earned runs across 30 innings pitched. Last season, Verlander posted a 3.24 ERA in four starts against New York, surrendering five dingers in 25 innings. That means, for the mathematicians out there, that Verlander allowed three home runs in five innings on Tuesday night, one of his worst starts in recent memory.

Verlander is an incredible pitcher. He's still somebody the Astros can turn to in a pinch and count on in crunch time. That said, Houston has a lot of ground to make up in the competitive American League, and the Yankees are circling the top of the mountain right now. The stage is set for another critical Verlander-Yankees showdown at some point. The question is, can Verlander deliver when the moment arrives? Recent evidence suggests... maybe not.