SAN FRANCISCO — Even though he went only four innings while getting shredded in Game One, Justin Verlander’s schedule for the rest of the World Series will not change.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Verlander will start in Game Five of the series Monday in Comerica Park, and will not come back on short rest for Game Four on Sunday night. If Verlander did that, it would set the stage for him to possibly pitch in Game Seven as well.
As it stands, Leyland’s pre-Series plan remains in force, which means the best the Tigers could hope for would be an inning or two of relief from him if there is a Game Seven. Verlander was pounded for six runs in the San Francisco Giants’ 8-3 victory Wednesday night at AT&T Park. Game Two here on Thursday was not complete in time for this edition.
Leyland always has plenty to say on a variety of topics at his pregame meetings with the media — unless the inquiry is probing about his lineup decisions. To wit, he would only say “No” when asked if he thought about replacing the defensively challenged Delmon Young with Andy Dirks in left field for Game Two.
Asked if Verlander is coming back early in the series, Leyland said, “Well, he’s coming back in Game Five, I hope.”
Pressed if it could be Game Four, Leyland simply said, “No”.
When the teams arrived here Tuesday, Verlander was asked whether he’s in opponents’ heads because he had been 3-0 with a 0.74 earned-run average in the postseason. The thinking was the Giants had to win four of the five games he doesn’t start because his two games will be automatic wins for Detroit.
“It’s obviously a great compliment for people to say, but anything can happen, and I don’t think myself nor the Tigers take anything for granted no matter who’s on the mound,” Verlander said in a comment that proved oddly prophetic.
Verlander endured his shortest outing since June 22, 2010 in Game One. He gave up a first-inning home run to Pablo Sandoval on an 0-2 pitch — the first 0-2 long ball he’s allowed all season and just the fourth of his career. He needed 38 pitches just to get through the third inning. It was the first time since the 2008 season that Verlander didn’t retire a single hitter on either the first or second pitch of an at-bat, according to Stats Inc.
“Last night’s game is what it is. We got beat. They played better than we did obviously,” Leyland said. “There’s no question about that. Justin, by his own admission, was out of whack.”
An RBI single by opposing starter Barry Zito and the 0-2 home run by Sandoval were the chief head shakers. Verlander also said he was stunned by Sandoval’s two-run homer to the opposite field in left in the third (FOX cameras caught him mouthing “Wow” as the ball cleared the fence) but was simply disappointed by the pitch in the first.
“I wasn’t executing. I tried to elevate there and didn’t get it high enough,” Verlander said. “Obviously, I didn’t know he was that locked in at that point but he was seeing the ball pretty well.”
“I just tried to protect my zone, get a pitch around the zone,” Sandoval said prior to Game Two. “I know he likes to attack the zone. He’s the kind of guy that attacks. I just try to protect my zone, and he made a mistake and I took advantage of the mistake. That’s all that matters, all it takes.”
The two-run shot came on the first pitch after Verlander stared down Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones as he walked to the mound for a chat. Verlander appeared to ask Jones, “what are you doing out here?” and said after the game he was joking with his coach that he was firing up the crowd even more by coming to the mound.
“I wasn’t mad he was coming out,” Verlander insisted. “[The score] was 2-0 and it’s not like the wheels were falling off. People like to work off a rhythm. I usually know what I’m doing out there. When things are going wrong, I usually know what I’m doing wrong.”
hen Sandoval connected in the fifth to make it 6-0, it gave him just the second three-homer game by a batter in the ballpark’s 13 seasons — and the only other one was by light-hitting Dodgers shortstop Kevin Elster in the first game ever at the park on April 11, 2000.
“The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they’ll be talking about for years,” Leyland said of Sandoval, who wound up with three home runs.
“Extremely impressive,” Verlander said. “I just wish I hadn’t contributed.”