HOUSTON (AP) — All of Justin Verlander’s illustrious accomplishments mean little right now.
Not those 225 wins, not the 3,006 regular season strikeouts, not the record 202 postseason Ks. Not the eight All-Star selections, not the 2011 Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player prize.
Verlander dropped to 0-5 in World Series games Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals pounded the Houston Astros 12-3 for a 2-0 series lead. That skid on baseball’s biggest stage is dragging the right-hander’s reputation down like ballast sinking a ship to the bottom of the sea.
Never before has a pitcher lost his first five World Series decisions.
He wound up flat on his back in the fourth inning, slipping on Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder and firing the ball off his own left foot. Verlander could smile about that one, an instant blooper reel staple.
But he was razed along with all the Astros in the seventh, and that was no laughing matter.
Verlander gave up a go-ahead home run to Kurt Suzuki , who had not driven in a run in this postseason, the start of a spirit-crushing six-run inning that lifted Washington.
And the big home run off a fastball at the letters came on Verlander’s second pitch to catcher Martín Maldonado, who had not been behind the plate for Verlander since last year. Prior to Suzuki’s at-bat, every pitch by Verlander this season had been delivered to Robinson Chirinos, who left when manager AJ Hinch replaced him with pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker, who struck out with two on for the final out of the sixth.
A likely Hall of Famer with a supermodel wife, the 36-year-old Verlander has a 5.73 ERA in six World Series starts.
He had a chance to close out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series two years ago but wasted a sixth-inning lead in a 3-1 loss. The Astros rebounded the next night for their first title.
Then, in this month of frustration, he had a chance to close out the AL Division Series against Tampa Bay in Game 4 on short rest, but he gave up three runs in the first inning of a 4-1 loss.
He had a chance to finish out the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees in Game 5 but allowed four runs in the first inning of another 4-1 defeat.
Verlander was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA during the regular season, leading the major leagues in wins for the third time, throwing his third no-hitter and forming a dynamic duo with Gerrit Cole.
In the World Series, they’ve hardly been so formidable. Cole allowed five runs in a 5-4 loss to open the Series.
Verlander is just 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in five October starts, winless in four since the Division Series opener.