Justin Verlander: Tigers Ace Shows Big-Game Ability with Game 3 Gem

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers looks for a sign from the catcher as he gets set to throw a pitch against the New York Yankees during game three of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 16, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This Justin Verlander guy is pretty good, in case you haven't noticed by now.

In the Tigers' 2-1 win Tuesday night, Verlander hurled 8.1 innings. He allowed one run, struck out three and walked no one. The only hit, of the three he surrendered, that even mattered was Eduardo Nunez's solo shot in the ninth inning.

Let's not forget: Entering this year's playoffs, there were still whispers concerning Verlander's big-game ability. He's obviously an incredible regular-season pitcher, as his 2011 American League Cy Young and MVP will attest to, but can he get it done on baseball's biggest stage?

Ladies and gentleman, it's time to close the curtains on that debate.

Verlander had a 0.56 ERA in two divisional playoff games versus Oakland. Now, he's delivered another gem. This time, throwing it against one of the league's most daunting offenses.

Never mind New York's recent woes on offense, pitching a huge playoff game against the Yankees is a big deal for anyone. Instead of showing nerves, or even really sweating, Verlander went about his business like it was May.

Prior to this year, Verlander had a 5.62 playoff ERA in eight starts. He couldn't get a grip, regardless of his prior successes.

This year, we see how far he really has come. Not only is he winning games, but he's not even flinching. His command is astounding, mowing down batters like it's nothing most of the time.

Verlander is cold-blooded on the mound—a physical freak of nature. Watching him get stronger as each inning passes is scary, almost like he's daring you to beat him in the game's most critical moments.

Maybe Verlander will have a poor start somewhere down the road, but it's hard to imagine at this point. He's demolishing batters with an icy glare and a high-90s fastball, without so much as a blink.

After his latest 130-pitch performance, Verlander showed it all. He's durable, dominant and, now, he's clutch.