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Saturday November 25th, 2017 4:42AM

LEADING OFF: Verlander tries to keep Astros from 0-2 hole

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening all around the majors today:

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ACE IN THE HOLE

After dropping the World Series opener at Dodger Stadium, the Astros are confident they can rebound in Game 2 — with good reason. Justin Verlander is on the mound, and he's perfect in a Houston uniform.

The ALCS MVP is 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA this postseason, including his first career relief appearance. He is 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 67 strikeouts in nine outings for the Astros since agreeing to a trade from Detroit that was completed only seconds before the Aug. 31 midnight deadline for postseason eligibility.

"We think we can win every single game he pitches. I don't know there's any better compliment for a starting pitcher," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "I expect his best, and that's what he's delivered since the day he became an Astro."

HUSHED HOUSTON HITTERS

Houston's batters are looking for a breakout after getting three-hit in the Series opener. It was an especially tough night for George Springer, who went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts from the leadoff spot in a game started by Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Springer, who hit 34 homers this season and made his first All-Star team, batted .412 with a homer and two doubles in the Division Series against Boston but only .115 (3 for 26) in the ALCS vs. the Yankees. Hinch said Springer will be right back in the leadoff spot for Game 2.

The bright spot Tuesday was a solo homer by Alex Bregman, but the five batters below him in the order — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Brian McCann and Marwin Gonzalez — were a combined 1 for 16. They weren't exactly tough outs, either — Correa was 0 for 3 with a strikeout and only saw five pitches. The Astros are batting just .176 since the start of the ALCS.

HILL TO RELY ON

Just over two years after pitching for the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League, Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers in Game 2. The 37-year-old left-hander used the Ducks as a springboard back into the majors, and after going 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA for Los Angeles this season, he's about to make his first Series start.

"A couple years ago, I was using a bucket in independent ball as a toilet," he recalled last weekend.

This will be Hill's third start this postseason — he's allowed three runs in nine innings and is yet to get a decision.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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