DETROIT -- There will certainly be some cries that Jim Leyland should start Justin Verlander on three days’ rest in Game 4, thus giving Verlander the opportunity to start Game 7 on short rest as well.
As intriguing as that option may sound, Leyland will stick to his original plan: Max Scherzer in Game 4 and then Verlander in Game 5 if the Tigers win.
Though it would be fun to stir the pot, it’s hard to disagree with the choice. If this was a decision between Verlander and a lesser No. 4 starter, I would argue that I’d rather go down with the best pitcher on the planet on the mound. But Scherzer is a quality starter, a guy who has been one of the elite pitchers in baseball in the second half. He’s allowed two runs in his two postseason starts and given that Verlander has never started on short rest, going with Scherzer is the right call.
Even if you started Verlander in Game 4, you'd still need Scherzer in Game 5 and you have to win both games anyway. Looking ahead to a potential Game 7, Anibal Sanchez pitched well in Game 3, so the potential advantage of Verlander making a second straight start on three days' rest over a rested Sanchez is minimal.
A few hours before Game 4, Verlander repeated a theme you heard from the Detroit clubhouse on Saturday night. There’s no need to change things up, no need, as Delmon Young said, to sacrifice a chicken or something. “Obviously it’s not another day at the office,” Verlander said, “but it’s not desperation either. Hey, we won four in a row against the Yankees. Who’s to say we can’t do it against these guys. ... I think our pitching could line up well, and just play the game we’ve played all year and see what happens.”
Leyland was just as direct, saying he'd talk to the team but it wouldn't be any big pep talk or anything. Asked about the potential optimism of winning Game 4 with Verlander going in Game 5, he said "I can paint a rosy picture, but the picture is not rosy right now. ... We've got Scherzer tonight, and that's good. We've got Verlander tomorrow, that's good. We've got (Doug) Fister the next day, that's good. And we've got Sanchez the next day, that good. ... But we've just got to figure out a way to go out and win a baseball game."
So Verlander will have to wait at least a day until he gets the ball again. Or months. Scherzer will have a lot to do with that, but so will the Detroit bats that were just shut out in back-to-back games -- the first time that's happened in the World Series since the Orioles blanked the Dodgers in 1966.
"I'm going to do everything I can on the bench, cheer our guys on, see what I can do, keep a positive attitude and do whatever I can to help us win," Verlander said. "But hopefully I have to flip that switch again and realize that I'm going to be pitching tomorrow."