Astros vs.  Phillies: Justin Verlander's World Series struggles continue with tough outing in Game 1

Astros vs. Phillies: Justin Verlander’s World Series struggles continue with tough outing in Game 1

For a while, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander looked poised to twirl a gem against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series. He didn’t allow a baserunner through the first three innings Friday night, but in the fourth all of that changed, even as he was staked to a 5-0 lead.

Verlander permitted a one-out single to Rhys Hoskins and then got the second out of the frame. At the point, the Phillies did what it seems like they’ve done all October: string together two-out hits. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos singled, and then Alec Bohm plated two with a double. Rookie Bryson Stott worked a 10-pitch walk before Verlander was able to escape further damage by inducing a Jean Segura pop-out.

The Astros lead was 5-3 going into the fifth, but Verlander again struggled. Here’s how his frame went: double, walk, pop out, double, ground out, strikeout. After all that, the score was tied, and Verlander and the Astros had blown a five-run lead. Verlander, who probably should’ve been lifted early in the fifth, wound up working five frames and giving up five earned on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Several hours later, the Astros hung their heads and took a 6-5 loss in the 10th.

Verlander is a future Hall of Famer who this year might win his third Cy Young in this, his age-39 campaign. But he’s struggled badly in the World Series throughout his career. Verlander came into Game 1 with a record of 0-6 and an ERA of 5.68 in seven career World Series starts. After Friday, those numbers need updating, and it turns out Verlander has made history of an unfortunate fate:

Yes, Verlander’s updated World Series ERA of 6.07 is the worst ever among those pitchers with at least 30 World Series innings. As bad as Verlander was in Game 1 on Friday, it’s arguably not the worst World Series start of his career. In Game 1 against the Giants in 2012, he allowed five runs in four innings; and in Game 1 against the Cardinals in 2006, he allowed six runs in five innings. As you’ve probably already surmised, Game 1s have been particularly unkind to Verlander:

As for his latest Game 1 flop, he’s pushing 40 years of age, and he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. Regular season and playoffs combined, he’s now worked 190 innings in 2022. Maybe that’s catching up to him, or maybe it’s just one of those baseball oddities that happens from time to time. Very likely, Verlander will have another start in this World Series and thus a shot at partial redemption. For now, though, his repeated struggles when the stakes are highest is sharply at odds with the brilliant remainder of his career.

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