What do you call a guy who just had his worst season in five years and still somehow managed to go 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA? You call him one of the most dominant pitchers of this era who is still liable to flip the switch at any moment and return to his old form.
Justin Verlander may be playing third fiddle to Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) and Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA), but if he can look like the Verlander that has struck fear into the hearts of the Detroit Tigers‘ AL Central rivals for the past five seasons, it’s hard to see how the Oakland Athletics – or any other AL team, for that matter — will be able to get close to these guys.
Sure, it always helps your chances when you have the greatest hitter in the league (Miguel Cabrera, in case that wasn’t glaringly obvious) batting cleanup. But in the playoffs, dominant starting pitching has propelled lesser teams than the Tigers to World Series. If the power trio of Verlander, Sanchez and Scherzer gets hot, the A’s don’t have enough offensive firepower to break them off their streak. That will indeed be Oakland’s greatest stumbling block in this series: How to play from behind when the Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers lineup gets hot.
Detroit fell without winning a single game in last year’s World Series because they ran into dominant pitching and only plated eight runs in four games. If Verlander is on top of his game in this series, Detroit can do the same to Oakland, and they will have an offensive security blanket to back him up. Let’s see what Verlander can do.