*No matter how much I start to call him Jason Verlander. This has been a recent thing, I don’t have a clue where it came from. If I ever slip up and write it that way in the blog, please, let me know in no uncertain terms that it is just dead wrong.
There has been a train of thought for some time that, as great Verlander has been every year for his entire career, his post-season resume left something to be desired. This isn’t a universally-held view, but it’s prevalent enough, and something I did happen to agree with. Here is a Joe Posnanski article that sums it up pretty well, written during last year’s playoffs. And, well, last year, Verlander played right into that hand. If you are really that sort of elite pitcher, you don’t have ho-hum four-run games when your back is against the wall in the ALCS. And, well, those are the sorts of outings Verlander kept having.
Until, obviously, this year. Again, Posnanski wrote about it, and I’m on board. Verlander was who he is supposed to be in both starts against the A’s. In two starts, he threw sixteen innings, gave up one run,* struck out twenty-two, and walked only five. That’s pretty darned good. Last night was more of the same. Verlander went eight and a third, giving up one run,** struck out three, and walked no one. And, to listen to Jim Leyland, Verlander would have finished the game if Ichiro wasn’t coming up. If Ichiro hadn’t had the other two hits in the game, that probably wouldn’t have mattered, either.
*That was a solo home run, so not like a sustained inning or anything. Just one good swing.
**Again, it was a solo home run, this one in the ninth inning.
So, yeah, Verlander, you are officially on the doorstep of “legendary stud” status. I would be shocked if the Tigers don’t put the Yankees out of their misery tonight. I fell asleep the last couple late games, because apparently I’m turning into my dad. But, I’m going to try like hell to make it to the end of this one.
Turning over to the National League, I think Matt Holliday is kind of a dirty player. I don’t know if he really means to be, but it’s just the case. Obviously, the most recent play is the one where he tried to snap Marco Scutaro’s leg off at the hip. Holliday apparently asked Buster Posey to apologize to Scutaro for him, saying he should have started his slide a little earlier. And I read that it seemed sincere. I don’t know if Posey took it much to heart, essentially losing a season of his young career to a “slide” a lot like Holliday’s.* But, at least he tried. Still, it takes more than words when you don’t even hit the ground on your slide until you’re on the left field side of the bag. That had a lot more in common with an open field tackle than it did a slide into second. How Holliday wasn’t ejected for that, I don’t know. And let’s not even get into calling runner’s interference to grant the out at first.
*Actually, that collision looks a lot more vicious and a lot less clean than I remember it being. I didn’t remember Scott Cousins lowering his shoulder that much, and I sure don’t remember him loading up for a big hit. Sure, you’re going to brace yourself, but that didn’t really seem very kosher upon review. Maybe that’s because I knew how the hit ended, though.
We’ve been through this before, though. I can remember one of the few times my being a Cub fan in a family of Cardinal fans caused some strife was because of Matt Holliday. And, of course, it had to happen while we were in Missouri for a family reunion. It was a better slide than the one against the Giants, but it wasn’t that much better. Remember when he did his darnedest to take Starlin Castro out of commission? That seemed like an awfully dirty play at the time. Yeah, maybe Holliday could have stretched out and got the bag with his fingertips. But he didn’t. That slide was nothing more than going out of his way to take down a shortstop who had done everything in his power to protect himself. And still couldn’t do it, because Holliday was, unequivocally, sliding at the fielder instead of the bag.
Of course, maybe Holliday is just really bad at sliding. You might remember he had a questionable slide of a different nature when he was still in Colorado. I mean, at this point, I would say your average Little Leaguer might have a better grasp on the whole sliding thing than Holliday at this point.
Of course, your average Little Leaguer might have a better grasp on playing left field, too.