12th Man Report: Verlander’s time to shine

Justin Verlander just hasn’t been Justin Verlander.

I’ve heard that too many times to count this season in regard to the Tigers’ pitcher and ace. And it was true. Previously in his career, but specifically the past two seasons, he has been one of, if not the best, pitchers in baseball.

This season hasn’t been a flop for him, but it has been a down year. “Down year;” that’s a relative term. He has a 3.46 ERA and a 13-12 record — a good season for a majority of pitchers in the Majors. Verlander holds himself to a much higher standard than the average pitcher, though.

So with the Tigers season on the line tonight in Oakland, it’s going to be his chance to redeem himself for a season in which he didn’t pitch his best. The good news for him is that he’s in pretty familiar territory. A year ago, in the exact same playoff series, with the exact same team in the exact same situation, Verlander pitched a complete-game shutout to advance the Tigers into the ALCS.

JV isn’t afraid of a little of pressure. As the Tigers go-to Ace in the previous three seasons, all of which have seen Detroit make it to the ALCS, he’s been called on various times to pitch in some high-pressure games. He’s no choke artist: not even close. Something in Verlander’s DNA gives him ice in his veins, and he always seems to come through in the clutch when the Tigers need someone to step up.

And if his previous few starts are any indication of what the Tigers’ faithful should expect tonight, well, you shouldn’t be upset one bit that Sherzer pitched in relief on Tuesday leaving the spot open for JV. He hasn’t given up a run since an abysmal 8-0 loss to Seattle on Sept. 8. During this stretch he has given up just nine hits over 12 dominant innings. So to say that he’s coming in hot to Oakland tonight isn’t even doing the situation justice.

Rest easy during your pregame naps this afternoon folks. Verlander may not have been “Justin Verlander” this year, but he deserves a little more credit than that. The guy thrives in pressure situations, and I see no reason that tonight won’t be the same. And sometimes a little run support is just what the doctor ordered for a pitcher.

In his recent performances, Verlander hasn’t given us any reason to expect someone other than the guy who dominated Oakland in last year’s ALDS game five. He looks more comfortable and surer of himself on the mound. We’ll see tonight, though. Who’ll show up: JV of old or this season’s JV, who ever that may be?

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