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

For a while, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander looked set to spin a gem against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series. He didn’t allow a base runner through the first three innings Friday night, but in the fourth that all changed, even though he had a 5-0 lead.

Verlander allowed a one-out single to Rhys Hoskins, then knocked the second out of bounds. At that point, the Phillies did what they seem to have been doing all October: string together two hits. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos singled, then Alec Bohm tackled two with a double. Rookie Bryson Stott worked a 10-length walk before Verlander could escape further damage by prompting a Jean Segura out.

The Astros’ lead was 5-3 early in the fifth, but Verlander struggled again. 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-point lead. Verlander, who probably should have been lifted early in the fifth, ended up working five frames and allowing five earned on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Several hours later, the Astros put their heads down and suffered a 6-5 loss in the 10th.

Verlander is a future Hall of Famer who could win his third Cy Young this year in the 39-year campaign. But he struggled a lot in the World Series throughout his career. Verlander entered Game 1 with an 0-6 record and a 5.68 ERA in seven career World Series starts. After Friday, those numbers need to be updated, and it turns out that Verlander made history in an unfortunate way:

Yes, Verlander’s 6.07 World Series ERA update is the worst of any pitcher 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 over four innings; and in Game 1 against the Cardinals in 2006, he allowed six runs in five innings. As you’ve probably guessed by now, Game 1s were particularly mean to Verlander:

As for his last flop in the first game, he is 40 years old and fresh from Tommy John surgery. Regular season and playoffs combined, he’s now gone 190 innings in 2022. Maybe that’s catching up with him, or maybe it’s just one of those baseball oddities that happens once in a while. Most likely, Verlander will have another start in this World Series and therefore a chance for partial redemption. For now, however, his repeated struggles when the stakes are at their highest are a stark contrast to the brilliant rest of his career.

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