Later this fall, Justin Verlander will take home his third American League Cy Young Award, the latest accomplishment in a Hall-of Fame career spanning the better part of two decades. Verlander posting a league-best 1.75 ERA months shy of his 40th birthday, after spending all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, is a testament to his longevity as arguably the greatest starting pitcher of his generation.
Dominant as he’s been, it’s impossible to gloss over Verlander’s World Series failures, a rare hole in an otherwise glowing resume. That continued to be the case with Verlander laboring through an uncharacteristically shaky performance in Game 1, yielding five runs on six hits in a no-decision.
Verlander blanked the Phillies over five shutout frames when he faced them earlier this month (notably, the Phillies had clinched a playoff berth the night before with many of their usual starters either sitting or nursing hangovers) and looked like he might have similar success Friday after breezing through his first three innings. Instead, the Phillies, who have made a habit of erasing huge deficits this postseason (none bigger than their ninth-inning comeback to stun the Cardinals in their playoff opener), poured it on with three runs in the fourth, all coming with two outs. The hit parade continued an inning later when J.T. Realmuto served one off the wall in left-center, scoring Brandon Marsh and Kyle Schwarber to tie it at five. Verlander escaped the inning without further damage, but it was still a disappointing end to a night that started with so much promise.
Verlander is now 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in his World Series career (43 innings), a large enough sample size to suggest this is more than sheer coincidence, with the Fall Classic representing a persistent roadblock for the 6’5” right-hander. Unable to exorcise his World Series demons Friday night, the Astros ace will have the next few days to figure out where he went wrong, with Game 5 presenting his earliest chance at redemption.
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