Football has its ageless wonder in Tom Brady. Basketball has its ageless wonder in LeBron James.
Baseball may have one too with 39-year-old Justin Verlander.
The Houston Astros ace, who will likely take home his third career Cy Young this season, was brilliant while leading his team to a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday. Houston is now three games away from its fourth World Series trip in six years, while the Yankees are facing a deficit against the team that eliminated them in the 2017 and 2019 ALCS.
Verlander gave the Astros a massive advantage on paper considering he was facing Jameson Taillon instead of Gerrit Cole or Nestor Cortés, who each pitched twice in the Division Series win over the Cleveland Guardians.
The future Hall of Famer capitalized on that by allowing a single earned run and striking out 11. He moved into first place in Major League Baseball history in postseason strikeouts and earned plenty of praise on social media in the process:
Joon Lee @joonlee
Justin Verlander is a baseball marvel<br><br>from Rookie of the Year in '06<br>to Cy Young in '11 <br>to looking washed in '14<br>to finding his footing again<br>to re-inventing with the Astros<br>to Tommy John surgery at 38<br>to putting up one of his best seasons at 39<br><br>A generational star
New York missed a golden opportunity to get to Verlander in the early going after Harrison Bader gave it the lead with a solo homer in the second inning. It put runners on second and third with one out in the third, but the starter escaped the jam with strikeouts of Josh Donaldson and Matt Carpenter.
The back-to-back punchouts set off a run of dominance that included six straight strikeouts as Verlander established full command, mixed in different pitches and retired the final 11 batters he faced.
Taillon pitched well enough to keep his team in the game by allowing just one run in 4.1 innings, but Houston's offense went into launch mode against the Yankees' bullpen with solo homers from Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick and Jeremy Peña.
That was enough for Ryan Pressly to close the door with a 1.1-inning save, and the Astros will look to defend home field again in Thursday's Game 2.