Justin Verlander crumbles again in World Series, now owns worst ERA in Fall Classic history

Gabe Lacques

HOUSTON – Justin Verlander fell flat once again on center stage at the World Series. 

The Houston Astros ace and likely American League Cy Young Award winner took the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday, coughed up a five-run lead and added to what's become a decade of poor performance in baseball's premier event.

"I need to do better. No excuses," said Verlander after the Phillies rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 in 10 innings. "A lot of credit to them as a lineup. They laid off some good pitches and they were able to, when I did execute the pitches, they were able to foul it off or put it in play and find a couple hits that way. Then when I did make a mistake, they hit it hard."  

Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander walks to the dugout after the second inning.

Verlander cruised to begin the game, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and enjoyed a 5-0 cushion entering the fourth inning. But that's when things fell apart. He gave up three runs, including a two-out, two-run double to Alec Bohm in the fourth and a two-run double to J.T. Realmuto to tie the game in the fifth inning. 

Perhaps a simple single from Rhys Hoskins to break up Verlander's perfection was all the Phillies needed.

"We got him in the stretch," Hoskins said of Philly's traffic-heavy fourth and fifth innings. "The game’s a different beast in the stretch."

Verlander exited in a 5-5 tie after allowing six hits.

"You know, it's hard to take Justin out because he can struggle for awhile, but he usually gets it back together," said Astros manager Dusty Baker.

"You certainly, you don't want to just go through your whole bullpen that early in the game. So like I said, there were two outs (in the fifth inning). Had there been no outs it might have been a different story. But with two outs you need one more out to get out of that inning."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner remains 0-6 in eight starts and saw his World Series ERA balloon to 6.07 – the worst mark in the history of the Fall Classic (min. 30 innings pitched).

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Verlander, who was 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA this season, has struggled in Game 1's in the Fall Classic, owning a 10.29 ERA when opening the World Series. Most notably, he yielded two of Pablo Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 Series, which ended with San Francisco sweeping Verlander's Detroit Tigers.

Now, the heavily favored, 106-win Astros are in a hole.

“I think this team, we have an ability when our back’s against the wall to play our best baseball," said Verlander, who would remain on turn for a possible Game 5 start in Philadelphia. “I expect nothing different moving forward from everybody in this locker room, including myself. And hopefully I get another opportunity to pitch and can do better.”