Astros’ Ver­lan­der first pitcher to go 0-5 in World Se­ries

Cy Young win­ner may not get chance to re­deem him­self

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - RON­ALD BLUM

HOUS­TON — All of Justin Ver­lan­der’s il­lus­tri­ous ac­com­plish­ments mean lit­tle right now.

Not those 225 wins, not the 3,006 reg­u­lar sea­son strike­outs, not the record 202 post-sea­son Ks. Not the eight all-star se­lec­tions, not the 2011 Cy Young Award and most valu­able player prize.

Ver­lan­der dropped to 0-5 in Ma­jor League Base­ball’s World Se­ries games Wed­nes­day night as the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als routed the Hous­ton Astros, 12-3, for a 2-0 lead in the be­stof-seven se­ries. That skid on base­ball’s big­gest stage is drag­ging the right-han­der’s rep­u­ta­tion down like bal­last sink­ing a ship to the bot­tom of the sea.

Never has a pitcher lost his first five World Se­ries de­ci­sions.

“We don’t dwell on win-loss record any­more, right?” he said with a smile, a ref­er­ence to modern an­a­lyt­ics by one of the sport’s most knowl­edge­able play­ers. “I’d like to win a cou­ple. Hope­fully, I’ll have an­other op­por­tu­nity.”

He wound up flat on his back in the fourth in­ning, slip­ping on Ryan Zim­mer­man’s grounder and fir­ing the ball off his own left leg. Ver­lan­der could smile about that one, an in­stant blooper reel sta­ple.

But he was razed along with all the Astros in the sev­enth, and that was no laugh­ing mat­ter.

On his 100th pitch, Ver­lan­der gave up a go-ahead home run to

Kurt Suzuki, who had not driven in a run this post-sea­son, the start of a spirit-crush­ing six-run in­ning that lifted Wash­ing­ton.

Suzuki is a .340 (16 for 45) hit­ter against Ver­lan­der, and the big home run off a 94 m.p.h. fast­ball at the let­ters came on Ver­lan­der’s sec­ond pitch to catcher Martin Mal­don­ado, who had not been be­hind the plate for Ver­lan­der since the 2018 Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Prior to Suzuki’s at-bat, ev­ery pitch by Ver­lan­der this sea­son had been de­liv­ered to catcher Robin­son Chiri­nos, who left when man­ager AJ Hinch re­placed him with pinch-hit­ter Kyle Tucker, who struck out with two on for the fi­nal out of the sixth.

“Maldy and I had worked to­gether a lot last year,” Ver­lan­der said. “First-pitch curve­ball for a ball, and then fast­ball that was right there for him.”

A likely Hall of Famer with a su­per­model wife, the 36-yearold Ver­lan­der has a 5.73 ERA in six World Se­ries starts.

He had a chance to close out the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Se­ries two years ago, but wasted a six­thin­ning lead in a 3-1 loss. The Astros re­bounded the next night for their first ti­tle.

Then, in this month of frus­tra­tion, he had a chance to close out the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries against Tampa Bay in Game 4 on short rest, but he gave up three runs in the first in­ning of a 4-1 loss.

He had a chance to fin­ish out the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the New York Yan­kees in Game 5, but al­lowed four runs in the first in­ning of an­other 4-1 de­feat.

Trea Turner started with just the third four-pitch walk lead­ing off a game in Ver­lan­der’s big league ca­reer and the first in 11 years.

“Just be­ing a lit­tle out of sync for the first bat­ter,” Ver­lan­der said. “I’m not go­ing to panic about it, and think that’s any­thing other than just an ano­maly.”

Adam Ea­ton sin­gled and An­thony Ren­don put the Na­tion­als ahead on Ver­lan­der’s ninth pitch with a two-run dou­ble off the left-field wall. Ver­lan­der is 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in five Oc­to­ber

starts, win­less since the Di­vi­sion Se­ries opener.

“In the reg­u­lar sea­son, you’re like, ‘OK, here it is, hit it, right down the mid­dle.’ In the World Se­ries, it’s a dif­fer­ent story,” Ver­lan­der said. “You can’t re­ally ever do that. You still got to hit your spots.”

He has al­lowed nine first-in­ning runs, most for any pitcher in one post-sea­son, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think most kind of big, elite phys­i­cal pitch­ers may have a lit­tle trou­ble get­ting into the game,” Hinch said. “But JV has been ex­cep­tional the en­tire sea­son, in­clud­ing the first in­ning.”

Ver­lan­der was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, lead­ing the ma­jor leagues in wins for the third time, throw­ing his third no-hit­ter and form­ing a dy­namic duo with Ger­rit Cole. In the World Se­ries, they’ve hardly been so for­mi­da­ble. Cole al­lowed five runs in a 5-4 loss to open the Se­ries.

Ver­lan­der could laugh about hit­ting his own leg, at least.

“Seventy-five per cent of that play was pretty ath­letic,” he said with a laugh, mix­ing in a pro­fan­ity. “It was a one-in-a-mil­lion play, any­way.”

In early 2018, he took a poke at Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who had slipped round­ing sec­ond base on a dou­ble, tweet­ing: “Not do­ing a lot here to help us dis­pel the pitch­ers aren’t ath­letes thing.”

Darvish tweeted back those same words Wed­nes­day.

“He’s prob­a­bly been wait­ing in the weeds for­ever,” Ver­lan­der said, “wait­ing for his op­por­tu­nity for me to do some­thing stupid.”

DAVID J. PHILLIP THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Justin Ver­lan­der con­tem­plates af­ter giv­ing up a home run to Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ Kurt Suzuki dur­ing the de­ci­sive sev­enth in­ning.

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