SAN FRANCISCO — Justin Verlander pawed at the mound with his feet during warmups, looked flabbergasted when his pitching coach came out for a visit and appeared out of sorts from the start.
Once again, nothing went right the for the Detroit Tigers ace in the World Series.
Verlander allowed two of Pablo Sandoval’s record-tying three home runs, an RBI single to fellow pitcher Barry Zito and failed to make it past the fourth inning in an 8-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
With two no-hitters, a Cy Young award and an MVP to his credit, Verlander is one of the most decorated pitchers of his generation. But all that success built on a fastball that hits triple digits on the radar gun and a devastating curveball and changeup hasn’t translated on the big stage of the World Series.
Verlander struggled in two starts as a rookie against St. Louis in 2006 and was even worse against the Giants this time, falling to 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in the Fall Classic.
He never found a groove against the Giants after taking what seemed to be a surprisingly long bullpen warmup.
He retired the first two batters and got ahead 0-2 to Sandoval before the Panda drove a 95 mph fastball over the wall in right-center to give the Giants the lead. That was just the sixth homer Verlander had ever allowed on an 0-2 pitch, including in last year’s ALCS to Nelson Cruz.
After a 1-2-3 second, Verlander fell off the rails with two outs and nobody on in the third. The rally started off innocently enough when Angel Pagan fouled off three two-strike pitches before hitting a bouncer that hit directly on third base and changed directions, veering past Miguel Cabrera for a quirky double.