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On the brink of elimination, the Astros’ hopes once again lie with Justin Verlander

When in the final seconds of August 2017, Jeff Luhnow pulled off the blockbuster trade that brought Justin Verlander to Houston, it vaulted the Astros to new heights. The future Hall of Famer pitched them past the Yankees in the ALCS only to then help lead them to the 56-year-old franchise’s first World Series championship.

A year later, the Astros’ season is once again riding on Verlander’s right arm. Their ace will take the ball on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park tasked with extending a franchise record-setting 103-win campaign at least a game longer and sending the ALCS back to Boston for a Game 6 on Saturday.

To preserve his team’s season, Verlander must do something his fellow members of the Astros’ historically great pitching staff have failed to do in their Games 2, 3 and 4 losses: stop the Red Sox lineup. Wednesday’s wild 8-6 affair — Carlos Correa remarked that it gave him flashbacks to Game 5 of last year’s.

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