When Justin Verlander takes the mound baseball fans know they are in for a pitching treat. Tuesday night was like an early Halloween for Detroit fans. Verlander tricked New York hitters all night as the Tigers went on to win 2-1 while taking a three games to zero lead in the ALCS.
For my money (and there’s not much of it), Verlander is the most exciting pitcher since Pedro Martinez’s days in a Boston Red Sox uniform. It’s no surprise Verlander put on yet one more dominant performance to add to his resume.
Going into Game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday night, Verlander’s stats were nothing short of what we would expect from … well … Verlander.
He only added to his dominance on Tuesday. He truly owned the night.
Yankees starter Phil Hughes had to leave the game in the fourth inning due to a stiff back. He left after giving up a solo shot to Delmon Young. Before the home run it looked like baseball fans were going to be treated a classic—if unexpected—pitching duel.
Hughes went 16-13, with a 4.23 ERA in 191.1 innings pitched during the regular season. Fine numbers, but that’s about it. A Hughes-Verlander pitching duel didn’t seem likely. But Hughes pitched an effective first three innings before the Young home run.
Baseball fans will never know what might have been if Hughes did not have to leave the game. The Yankees ended up using six pitchers. The Tigers only had to rely on two—(Phil Coke closed the game).
Here is my bold prediction: Verlander still would have dominated and the Tigers would still have a three games to none lead in the ALCS even if Hughes did not go down with a back injury.
Verlander tossed 8.1 innings of one run ball. He allowed three hits and struck out three. The lone run came from a Eduardo Nunez solo shot in the ninth. Before he allowed the run, ESPN tweeted:
Justin Verlander is an absolute monster. He just pitched his 23rd consecutive scoreless inning.
— ESPN (@espn) October 17, 2012
He truly was a monster. He will haunt the dreams of every Yankees hitter who is able to get some sleep after being beat into submission by a pitcher who is truly the definition of an ace.
The truly scary part is that what New York faced was not even the best Verlander can offer—the only thing missing from his arsenal on Tuesday was the strike out pitch.
Verlander went deep in counts and threw 132 pitches. But aces find a way even when they don’t have their greatest stuff working. That is exactly what Verlander did.
Detroit is now only one win away from the World Series. Game four is Wednesday night at 8 PM on TBS. Stay tuned Detroit fans—you may be in the Fall Classic before you know it.
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