PADECKY: A's get Verlander out of the way
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
DETROIT -- Well, it's a good thing we got that one out of the way.
That's what the A's have to be thinking now, having been smoked by the Tigers' Justin Verlander on Saturday night. They have to treat Verlander and Game One of the ALDS that way. Like, you know, we hit a pothole and everybody hits a pothole now and then and you just keep driving. That's what they have to do. That's what they must do. They need to put into play that famous selective memory of theirs, where the A's can forget today the unpleasantness of what happened yesterday.
And the A's must not project, even for a second, what their 3-1 defeat really meant. It meant the A's have to win the next three games of this five-game series because if they don't, they'll face the best pitcher in baseball again in Game Five.
“And you don't want to do that,” said first baseman Brandon Moss.
That would be like saying we had so much fun at the dentist the first time when he didn't use Novocaine, let's do it again, mom.
Verlander, last year's AL MVP, struck out 11 at Comerica Park, five consecutive A's at one point, including the side in the sixth inning. It was one of those dominant performances in which Verlander seemed to be pitching downhill at the little people, which has been his custom. In the sixth inning, on his 105th pitch of the game, Verlander threw a running four-seam fastball on the outside corner and at the knees of Oakland's Josh Donaldson. It traveled 98 miles per hour. Donaldson watched strike three. It was an impossible pitch for a hitter.
“Verlander painted the corners all night long,” Moss said, “and when he pitches like that, there's no one here (in the A's clubhouse) who's going to do well when he does that.”
Or in anyone's clubhouse, not when you can throw 98 miles an hour on your 105th pitch of the game. That's an ungodly, beastly achievement because Verlander defies one of the cardinal rules of baseball — the longer a pitcher stays in the game, the more chances a hitter has to learn him and solve him. Not Verlander. He went the other way. To the point that he rendered a very good effort by Oakland's Jarrod Parker meaningless.
One has to be relatively flawless when Verlander is dealing hard cheese and Parker was ever-so-slightly human. He booted a soft grounder in the third that led to a run and gave up a solo homer to Alex Avila in the fifth. In the first inning, a double play grounder by Miguel Cabrera scored a run, which at the time seemed like a success since Parker got the Triple Crown winner to ground into a double play with runners on first and second and one out.
Ah, but all success is relative when Verlander is dealing, especially against a team that set the AL record this season for strikeouts. How do the A's put this one behind them? Possibly looking at the way Josh Reddick looked at it.
I asked Reddick how impressive it was for Verlander to throw him a 98 mph fastball on the outside corner for strike three in the sixth inning. When it was his 102nd pitch of the game.
“Well, first off, I don't believe it was a strike,” Reddick said. “The ball wasn't over the plate.”
Was Verlander given that outside pitch just because he's Justin Verlander?
“I believe so,” Reddick said.
“Sort of like Michael Jordan never traveled when he dribbled the basketball?”
Reddick smiled and said, “Yeah, something like that.”
On the other hand ...
“I can't blame Verlander for going there,” said Reddick, referring to the drilling of the outside corner time and time again. “I would have done the same thing.”
But Verlander was dominant, right?
“He's a good pitcher,” Reddick said.
“You didn't say he was a great pitcher.”
“That's right. You don't want to give him too much credit.”
Because, for a hitter, that compliment is a slippery slope. Call a pitcher great, and the next thing you know he's Sandy Koufax. And that's an image a hitter doesn't want rumbling around in his head. Justin Verlander is competent, does his job, makes good pitches, pitched aggressively but Lord knows, he can't be the guy that sawed off bats, who pitching downhill against the little people.
He can't be that guy. Even if he was.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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