Unfortunately for all of us, and the Tigers, Jose Valverde was unable to take care of business last night leading to a series deciding game five tonight in Oakland. Despite the terrible loss, I have to imagine the Tigers feel comfortable still (as comfortable as they can be in a game 5) because their ace Justin Verlanderwill be toeing the slab tonight. With the bullpen of the Tigers proving to be a little shaky, manager Jim Leyland better make sure he is ready to pry the baseball out of Verlander’s hand tonight if he comes out there to get him. Verlander is no stranger to high pitch counts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is pitching well to see him approach 140 tonight.
The Tigers may very well need it. I mean, if he is strong, who do you have more confidence in? Verlander or Jose Valverde?
When to pull Verlander, or even if Leyland will pull Verlander is just one storyline when it comes to baseball’s pitcher, and it was just covered by Matt Snyder while I was writing this. I mentioned in a post right before the playoffs, that this was the year that Verlander needed to take his regular season success and carry that over to the post-season. He has literally done almost every thing on a mound for the Tigers, besides win a World Series and pitch a perfect game.
Winning a series deciding playoff start is one of those things as well.
First things first. I am going to come clean. When Verlander gave up that lead off home run to Coco Crisp in game one, I thought to myself, “here we go again”. In fairness to me, post-season success had alluded Verlander until that point, and a home run by a guy who rarely hits them wasn’t a good start. Verlander settled in, and despite the A’s conscientiously running up his pitch count, Verlander dominated for seven innings.
I’m certainly not going to take anything away from Verlander’s series opening start. There is tremendous pressure associated with any game in the playoffs, but the A’s aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch, and that kind of performance is expected. He pitched like a guy who wants to be known for his post-season dominance as well, and personally, I believe it’s been the most encouraging thing I’ve seen this post-season so far.
The pressure is going to get turned up several notches tonight in Oakland. I want to see Verlander handle it, and turn in a performance that leaves no doubt that he is the best pitcher in baseball.
Justin Verlander is beloved in Detroit. I don’t see any way that the results of tonight’s game will change that. Win or lose, the city of Detroit and Tigers fans won’t turn their backs on their stud pitcher. But for those that follow the Tigers as if it were religion, their belief in one of their disciples will only get stronger with a ALDS clinching win tonight. And much like religion, stories birthed from games of this magnitude can get passed down from one generation to the next.
I have faith that Verlander will turn in a performance for the ages tonight, leaving no doubt that his pitching prowess isn’t one of myth, but rather one of legend.