Despite being one of the finest pitchers in Major League Baseball since his career began in 2005, the Houston Astros‘ Justin Verlander has developed a reputation as an underachiever during the World Series. While his performance in Wednesday’s Game 2 wasn’t a jaw-droppingly poor performance, allowing four runs with six strikeouts over seven innings, it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Washington Nationals‘ Stephen Strasburg. Verlander was to blame for allowing a clutch home run by Kurt Suzuki that broke a 2-2 deadlock, with the Astros eventually losing in a 12-3 rout. The result ended up dropping Verlander’s World Series record to 0-5, having lost every appearance he has made in the Fall Classic during his career.
Losses haven’t been a common thing in 2019. His 21 wins were the most in Major League Baseball and he is a contender for the American League Cy Young award. During the 2019 postseason, Verlander has been somewhat inconsistent for his standards, alternating between untouchable and mortal throughout his four games against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
Before his 2019 World Series debut, Verlander appeared in three previous editions of the fall classic, twice with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012, then once before with the Houston Astros in 2017. After Tuesday’s appearance, Verlander’s World Series stats are now a 5.67 ERA in five starts with 30 strikeouts over 27 innings, according to Baseball Reference.
Verlander’s biggest weakness this postseason has been his inability to quickly settle in, often forced to play from behind after allowing runs in the first inning. Verlander set another record on Tuesday after he allowed two first-inning runs by the Nationals. That brought his total for the entire season up to nine, a feat that has yet to be achieved. Those two runs are added to the four he allowed to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and the three he allowed against the Rays in the divisional round, both in games where the Astros could have potentially closed out the series but would end up losing.
While his World Series output has been undoubtedly disappointing, Verlander did hit a milestone that proved his reputation as one of the finest pitchers of the last 20 years. After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, the pitcher settled in and struck out four of the following six Nationals. That made Verlander the all-time postseason strikeouts leader, taking him beyond the previous record of 199 held by the Atlanta Braves’ John Smoltz. Verlander finished the night with 202 career strikeouts.