Game 1: Well, That Was Wild!
Where to begin? I suppose we should start with Justin Verlander. He’s one of the most remarkable pitchers in baseball history, We all know that. He’s probably going to win his third Cy Young Award this year after leading the league in wins and ERA yet again (wins for the fourth time, ERA for the second). He certainly has his argument as the greatest pitcher of his generation.
Highest combined WAR this century:
Justin Verlander, 78.2
Clayton Kershaw, 73.3
Max Scherzer, 70.5
Zack Greinke, 68.5
CC Sabathia, 64.2
Roy Halladay, 63.5
Mark Buehrle, 56.2
Cole Hamels, 54.8
Randy Johnson, 52.1
King Felix Hernandez, 52.0
But here’s the catch: Justin Verlander has never pitched a great World Series game. Not once. He’s certainly had his chances — Friday night was his eighth World Series start. Only 21 pitchers in baseball history have started at least eight World Series games in their careers.
Of those 21, Verlander has by far the worst ERA.
Highest World Series ERAs among pitchers who have started at least eight games:
Justin Verlander, 6.07
Don Sutton, 5.26
Andy Pettitte, 4.06
Dave Stewart, 3.47
Catfish Hunter, 3.29
That’s … pretty awful, let’s not kid anybody. And yet, for the most part, you really don’t hear people talk that much about it. Justin Verlander is 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in the World Series, and yet if you watched the Fox broadcast Friday night, you would have thought that he was some World Series combination of Bob Gibson and Christy Mathewson. Even after he got lit up, they were still doing little “Justin Verlander is awesome” segments.
This is really weird. Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not weird that people will look at the awesomeness of Verlander’s larger career rather than the small sample size of his World Series struggles — that’s exactly what people SHOULD do.
But nobody, and I mean nobody, does this for Clayton Kershaw. Every single time Clayton Kershaw pitches in the postseason, we have to hear about his postseason struggles, about a 2009 game against the Phillies or a 2014 game against the Cardinals or a 2018 game against the Red Sox or …
I mean: Every time. It has been the sports narrative that just won’t quit, that Clayton Kershaw is terrible come October.
And yet … Verlander has been WAY worse in the World Series than Kershaw or, well, pretty much anybody else. Get this: In his eight World Series starts, he NEVER left the game with the lead. Not even once. His teams have lost seven of them, and the lone win required one of the most epic comebacks in World Series history.
So, in that way, what happened Friday was not without precedent.