Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander was on fire all season, but he’s now crumbling under the pressure of the postseason.
Justin Verlander was the talk of the Houston Astros during the regular season. Many thought he had a Cy Young-worthy season as he produced an incredible ERA of 1.75, a batting average against of .186 and WHIP of 0.83. His postseason, however, has gone completely astray with the worst ERA in Fall Classic history.
Verlander blew a 5-0 lead in Game 1 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth and fifth innings. According to Talkin’ Baseball, he now has a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Series starts.
He’s not going easy on himself for his mistakes, either. “My team gave me a five-run lead and I wasn’t able to hold it,” Verlander told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. “I feel like 99 percent of the time I’m able to hold it. Today, I wasn’t.”
Though his performance was certainly disappointing for Astros fans, it’s nothing new. He has a tendency of choking during the postseason after producing impressive results in the regular season.
For example, in 2011, he had a great season with the Detroit Tigers, producing an ERA of 2.40, BAA of .192 and WHIP of 0.92. That same postseason, with four starts, he produced a drastically worse ERA of 5.31, BAA of .241 and WHIP of 1.43.
He underperformed a few more times between now and then, but for a more recent example, 2019 proved to be a tough postseason for Verlander. In the regular season, he produced an ERA of 2.58, BAA of .172 and WHIP of 0.80.
In the postseason, his numbers drastically went up again with an ERA of 4.33, BAA of .229 and WHIP of 1.25. Though these results aren’t horrible, they certainly aren’t the ace-level that he typically puts out and aren’t likely to win championships. They fell short in 2019, making the World Series but losing to the Washington Nationals.
To make things even worse, ESPN reported that he’s usually at his worst when opening Game 1 of a World Series with a concerning ERA of 10.29.
History may be repeating itself for Houston as their most reliable players crumble under pressure.
The Astros are in a tough spot performance-wise this World Series
The Phillies haven’t been in the playoffs since 2011 and haven’t won a World Series since 2008, so they’re extra hungry for success and are showing it through their stellar lineup. In just 12 postseason games, five different Philadelphia players have hit home runs, including Bryce Harper (5), Rhys Hoskins (5), J.T. Realmuto (3), Kyle Schwarber (3) and Brandon Marsh (1).
They’ve been playing extremely well together and playing up to their offensive advantage, which didn’t show as well as it could have in the regular season. They ranked back-to-back with Houston in most hitting stats through the regular season, while the Astros blew nearly everyone out of the water with their rotation.
However, while the Phillies are coming together this postseason and playing up to their strengths, the Astros are falling apart and straying away from what made them one of the best teams in the league.
The Astros are a perfect example of just how much a good pitcher can make or break a game. Had Verlander been performing up to his usual standards in Game 1, the Astros likely would’ve had an easy win against the Phillies, considering the significant lead they held.
Cristian Javier is the next-best starter in Houston, but he’s not on the same level as Verlander. Nobody is, and that could become concerning as they’re down a game due to their best regular season pitcher.
Regardless of what happens in Game 2, they’ve made the series one game harder for themselves to win. Although, looking at Verlander’s postseason history, this was rather predictable.