When Justin Verlander takes the hump in the postseason against the Oakland Athletics the playing field is tilted like the Titanic in it’s final moments at sea, and the A’s are the ship itself.
For the second straight season, the A’s entered Game 5 of the ALDS with Verlander standing in their way. For the second straight season,
Verlander and the Detroit Tigers shut the A’s out to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Today’s start against the A’s marked the fourth time that Verlander has faced Oakland in the past two postseasons and he’s been nothing short of dominant.
In four starts against the A’s, Verlander has pitched 31 innings and allowed a single run while striking out 43 batters. That works out to an ERA of 0.29. MLB Twitter account loved it so much they gave JV a shoutout last night before the ace was even out of the shower (see it below).
The two dominant starts (a combined 15 innings of shutout ball) came on the heels of what many would call a disappointing year for Verlander. MLB Network analyst Brian Kenny even stated it was a “great idea” for the Tigers to put him in the bullpen during the postseason at one point.
Needless to say, Jim Leyland made the right decision to keep Verlander in the rotation. After all, the subpar year that Verlander put up still worked out to a 3.46 ERA with over 200 strikeouts. For the more sabermetrically inclined, he finished the year with 5.2 fWAR, seventh best among all pitchers in baseball, though surprisingly just 3rd among Tiger pitchers.
The 2011 MVP will look to continue his postseason brilliance as the Tigers head to Boston to face the AL East Champion Red Sox in the ALCS with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Last year Verlander followed up his dominance of Oakland by allowing just a single run in eight innings against the New York Yankees as the Tigers moved onto the World Series, where Verlander cooled off, taking a loss.
Game 1 of the ALCS is Saturday night, with Verlander likely to start in Game 3 and again in Game 6 or 7 if necessary.