Justin Verlander: Shaky Start Sets Tone for Rest of World Series

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 24:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after Barry Zito #75 of the San Francisco Giants hit a RBI single to left field in the fourth inning during Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series at AT&T Park on October 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It was just one of those nights for Justin Verlander.

The Tigers ace got rocked, by his standards, in Game 1 of the World Series, giving up five runs on six hits in just four innings of work. His command was off, throwing first-pitch strikes to nine of 19 batters, and the Giants took advantage.

Even when the 2011 Cy Young winner managed to get ahead in the count, San Francisco made him pay. On an 0-2 count in the first inning, Pablo Sandoval took advantage of a critical mistake.

Where do the Tigers turn from here? Sure, Verlander could get the ball again, but if the Giants hit him, what can't they do? In San Francisco's mind, it's capable of anything.

That's the problem now for Detroit. The Giants have been the comeback kids this postseason, clearing a two-game deficit in both the NLDS and NLCS to reach the World Series. Verlander was supposed to halt that momentum, backed by a Detroit team that had won five straight games entering Wednesday night.

In terms of psyche, it doesn't get much worse than this for Jim Leyland's crew. Nothing against Doug Fister, but he looks like a junior varsity high school player in the minds of Sandoval and the Giants right now. Verlander is the creme de la creme of pitching in today's game, and beating him so badly would take any team to another level.

The Giants entered Game 1 in a precarious position. They couldn't throw Ryan Vogelsong or Matt Cain on short rest, and Barry Zito is still a scary option despite his torrid hot streak as of late. Pitching the series with a backwards rotation is enough to make anyone nervous, even for a team with nerves of steel.

Verlander was the Tigers' main advantage entering this series. Max Scherzer has been dynamite as well, but Verlander's reputation precedes him. Now that he's been neutralized, at least for the time being, the Giants can relax.

With the Giants' solid pitching rotation, steady bullpen and scorching-hot lineup, a World Series title isn't hard to believe. After defeating Verlander Wednesday night, that picture became a little clearer.