SAN FRANCISCO -- He foreclosed on the A's pie shop. He defused the Bronx Bombers.
Now super-pitcher Justin Verlander has a new task: Stop the Giants' momentum cold in its tracks, and do it with just one arm.
Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night may not be so critical to the Giants -- wake them when they're about to be eliminated -- but for the Detroit Tigers, it might be the closest thing to a must-win that you can have at the start of a Fall Classic.
If Verlander can't slow down the Giants, who can?
There may be no more able man in baseball than Verlander to do it. The Detroit right-hander has won his last seven starts with an ERA of 0.69. Three of those have been postseason starts in which he has allowed a total of 10 hits and two runs in 241/3 innings. He has limited opposing hitters to a .122 batting average and struck out 25 while walking just five.
Over the last two seasons, counting his 5-1 playoff mark, he is 46-14.
But a loss that doesn't count on Verlander's gaudy record is his start in this year's All-Star Game. A parade of Giants, most notably Pablo Sandoval, gave him a pretty good spanking. He hasn't forgotten.
As Verlander explained after the game, he approached that outing differently than a normal start since he was only going to throw an inning or two. He took more of a mow 'em down bullpen approach, in part to put on a bit of a show for the fans in Kansas City.
"Yeah, I tried to
Little did Verlander know four months later that his inefficiency -- he yielded five first-inning runs in an 8-0 A.L. defeat -- would result in the Tigers having to open the World Series in the N.L. park.
"Do I wish it had worked out better and we'd be home right now? Absolutely," he said. "But it didn't, and we're here."
As far as the Tigers are concerned, it doesn't matter where Verlander is pitching these days. As he demonstrated against in a complete game shutout against the A's in Game 5 of the A.L. Division Series, hostile crowds and foreign surroundings don't faze him.
"In the final game against Oakland, you could tell when he walked in the door that day he had that shutdown look, the one that told you we were moving on," said Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. "Honestly, I don't care what park he pitches in, whether it's on the road or at home. You get the same Justin Verlander most every time, and that's dominant."
The Giants who saw Verlander in the All-Star Game didn't get the full package. Wednesday night, that's far more likely.
"If he's got four pitches going, you better scratch out one run because we feel if we score one or two runs, that's enough if he's on his game," said Laird. "That's how good he is."
The Tigers' other catcher, Alex Avila, said that as much as Verlander has developed his repertoire, it's his mind-set that makes him doubly tough.
"Every start, he expects to go nine innings and not give up any hits or any runs," Avila said. "That's what he prepares himself to do every time out. Obviously, that's impossible, but that's what he expects and he strives for it."
The Giant who seems to never strike out, NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, is 5 for 23 (.217) with eight strikeouts against Verlander.
"He's a power pitcher who can throw an off-speed pitch in any count," Scutaro said. "He's many miles (mph) different between fastballs and breaking balls, and that's what makes him so tough."