Don’t blame the layoff; blame Justin Verlander for Game 1 loss

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Done in by poor fastball location, Justin Verlander got lit up by the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series, surrendering five runs and two Pablo Sandoval homers in four innings. Some facts from the outing:

– It was just the third in three years in which he failed to go five innings. The last was in the 2011 ALCS, when he allowed three runs in four innings in a loss to the Rangers. The only other time in the last three years that he was pulled before five innings was June 22, 2010 against the Mets (5 ER in 2 IP).

– Sandoval’s first homer was the fifth ever allowed by Justin Verlander on an 0-2 pitch, once in 2006 (Tadahito Iguchi), 2007 (Billy Butler), 2010 (Torii Hunter) and 2011 (Shelley Duncan).

– The five runs allowed matched his high total in 26 career starts against NL teams. He also gave up five runs in the aforementioned start against the Mets and in 2009 against the Cardinals.

– His 38-pitch third inning was his high total for any inning this year.

Of course, some will blame the rust for the Tigers’ struggles tonight. It’s an easy narrative, having been carried over from 2006 when they lost the World Series to the Cardinals after a lengthy layoff.

Verlander, though, wasn’t particularly rusty, having made this start on seven days’ rest. That’s just one more day off than he had for Game 1 of the ALDS. The offense wasn’t great, but it did come up with eight hits. One problem was the Tigers got nothing from the bottom of the order, which was also a big reason why the team had a disappointing offense in the regular season.

But the Tigers lost tonight because Verlander couldn’t find a way to keep them in the game. Maybe he deserves the free pass — he’s the biggest reason they’re here in the first place — but it sure would have been nice if he could have figured out a way to grind out a six-inning, three- or four-run outing, both to aid the pen and help the chances of a comeback. He needed some finesse tonight, and he simply didn’t have any.

Brewers move into tie with Nationals for first NL Wild Card

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The Brewers, once left for dead after outfielder Christian Yelich suffered a season-ending injury, defeated the Pirates 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. That, paired with the Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Marlins, moved them into a tie for the first NL Wild Card. The Brewers are 10-2 since Yelich’s injury.

During Sunday’s game, the Brewers brought a combined perfect game bid into the seventh inning. It ended when Gio González allowed a one-out single to Bryan Reynolds. The Brewers’ four runs came on two Eric Thames homers and an Orlando Arcia homer. The Pirates mounted a rally in the eighth inning, scoring three runs, but Josh Hader came in and slammed the door, getting the final four outs.

The Brewers end the season on a six-game road trip. They will face the Reds for three games before finishing out the schedule with three against the Rockies. The Cubs trail both the Brewers and Nationals by four games. The Mets are 4.5 games back while the Diamondbacks and Phillies are each 5.5 games behind.