There is an old cliché in baseball that momentum is only as strong as your next game’s starting pitching. In other words, a dominating starter can overwhelm even a team that’s otherwise on a role.
This adage will play out when the San Francisco Giants host the Detroit Tigers in game one of the World Series on Wednesday.
The Giants have shown tremendous grit in these playoffs, having already won six games when a loss would have meant elimination – including three straight in their just-completed National League Championships Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
Unfortunately, they’re now facing a pitcher who is not only on form but has something to prove. The Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who is the reigning Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards winner, has been sterling this post-season (3-0 with just two runs allowed in 24 1/3 innings). But he’s also motivated by his struggles in his only other World Series.
In 2006, the rookie Verlander went 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA. He’s said he learned from trying to do too much six years ago and his performance during these playoffs appears to corroborate this claim.
Verlander's opponent, the Giants’ Barry Zito is coming off a great start against the Cardinals in game five of the NLCS. In that contest, he pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. But considering the left-hander hasn’t delivered a regular season ERA below 4.00 since 2006, perhaps Zito’s other playoff results – 2 2/3 innings, four hits, four walks and two runs against the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Divisional Series – is more emblematic of what to expect.
Take Verlander and Detroit at 1.57 instead of Zito and San Francisco at 2.40.