Big League Stew

The Second Guess: Should Justin Verlander start Game 4 with Tigers season on brink?

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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When appropriate, Big League Stew reviews key decisions in the postseason to see if the right one was made.

The Issue: Well, this is it. One more loss and the Detroit Tigers head home as the victims of the first World Series sweep since the Colorado Rockies bowed out against the Boston Red Sox in 2007. It's do-or-die time in Motown and that means starting the process of somehow scratching out four wins against a San Francisco Giants team that seems to be running downhill at full speed towards its second World Series title in three seasons.

But to borrow a cliché, the Tigers can't make history by winning all four remaining games without winning the first and Jim Leyland's focus should be on putting his best team on the field Sunday night.

The Question: Should Justin Verlander be starting Game 4 instead of Max Scherzer?

The Case For: Verlander is the reigning American League Cy Young and MVP. He holds the pedigree of a big pitcher ready to save the team's season and there's surely no shortage of Detroit Tigers fans who can recall Mickey Lolich pitching complete games against the St. Louis Cardinals in Games 5 and 7 to finish a comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the 1968 World Series. That was a different time in baseball, sure, as Lolich also pitched a complete-game victory in Game 2 of that Fall Classic en route to MVP honors. But if you start Verlander on three days rest for Sunday's Game 4, you also get the opportunity to bring him back on three days rest for Thursday's Game 7, if the Tigers can somehow force it. Verlander has been the Tigers most valuable weapon over the past several years and you'd hate to see the season end without him getting as many chances as possible to pitch.

The Case Against: The Tigers aren't exactly hurting for quality pitching this series. Both Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez were great in Games 2 and 3; it was the breakdown of the Tigers offense that led to the team sinking into this 3-0  hole. Scherzer hasn't been a slouch this postseason, either, giving up one run and striking out 18 over 11 total innings in two starts. He struck out 10 Yankees in clinching an ALCS sweep over New York two Thursdays ago.

Verlander, meanwhile, is coming off a Game 1 loss that saw him surrender five runs in four innings to San Francisco, including two home runs to Pablo Sandoval. He's also never pitched on three days rest in his entire career and Leyland has been adamant that he won't put any member of his pitching staff at risk by starting them on short rest this postseason.

The Verdict: The Tigers should stay the course and focus on forcing a Game 5 that Verlander will start on Monday. Detroit reached the World Series by having all four starters pitch out of their minds and they'll need the same if they're going to become the first team in World Series history to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Verlander can always contribute in an all-hand-on-deck situation in Game 7 if the team's offense finally wakes up and allows it to get that far.

Don't miss a thing this World Series ...
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