As it currently stands, the Detroit Tigers will be starting Max Scherzer in Game 4 of the World Series. Scherzer has had a tremendous season. His pitching has really come around and he has become dominant with his strikeouts.
The issue is that the Tigers have Justin Verlander sitting on the bench. You remember Verlander, the reigning Cy Young and American League MVP winner. Yes, he had a bad Game 1, but in an all-or-nothing game, who would you rather have on the mound?
Even more important is that in order for the Tigers to win the series, they now must go seven games. Waiting for a hopeful Game 5 to pitch Verlander means he is done for the series. If he pitched in Game 4, he could then be ready for Game 7.
By moving Verlander to Game 4, the Tigers could still use Scherzer in a Game 5 and then Doug Fister in Game 6. If Verlander is unable to go the distance in Game 7, then Anibal Sanchez would be ready for long relief.
Jim Leyland has said many times that he will not pitch Verlander, or any pitcher, on short rest. Verlander is a special type of pitcher. Pitch counts go out the window for him, as he gets stronger later in games. He has many 120-plus pitch outings a season, and can do them in back to back games.
When the season is on the line, Leyland needs to get out of his own way and allow his best player to play. Verlander is the reason the Tigers are in the playoffs, and if they are to have a miraculous comeback in this series then they will need two more wins from him.
Leaving him on the bench for Game 4 does not benefit the team. Sadly, Leyland is too stubborn to change his mind. Ideally, a decree comes down from team owner Mike Ilitch regarding who starts Games 4 and 7.
Now, it is obvious it's not the starting pitching that has struggled during these playoffs. The bats have been bad. As streaky as they have been all season, they are certainly due for a hot streak. When that happens, knowing that Verlander should be on the mound two more times allows for at least a glimmer of hope that the Tigers can come back.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
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