carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

A’s must find a way to finally solve Verlander

The expression “catching lightning in a bottle” is used to describe rare, seemingly impossible accomplishments. In sports, it surfaces when underdogs overcome insurmountable odds to slay Goliath.

The phrase is getting play this week in chatter about Sonny Gray’s spellbinding performance against Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. But they also say that it’s impossible to catch lightning in a bottle twice, so the A’s can’t depend on eight shutout innings from their rookie pitcher if they expect to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Gray vs. Bartolo Colon decision is great fodder for debate, but realistically, the A’s couldn’t make a bad choice here. Ultimately, if they’re going to beat the Tigers, they’ll need to find a way to finally solve Verlander.

Deja vu.

But this time, the 2011 American MVP will be taking the mound at O.co Coliseum with two scoreless-innings streaks stuffed in his back pocket.

The A’s haven’t crossed the plate with Verlander on the mound in postseason competition since Coco Crisp led off Game 1 of last year’s ALDS with a home run.

Verlander has pitched 22 straight scoreless innings against the A’s in the playoffs, including his complete game shutout in Game 5 of last year’s series, and he’s fanned 33 batters over that stretch.

But this is a new season and Verlander’s calibration is a little off, right?

While the lanky right-hander’s win-loss record (13-12) was somewhat un-Verlandian this year, his 3.46 ERA is certainly respectable and he finished the regular season with a streak of 13 scoreless innings. He added seven more shutout innings in his showdown with Gray on Saturday, so he’s also carrying a 20-scoreless-innings streak into tonight’s start. The A’s should expect him to bring his best stuff to the hill.

Streaks aside, Verlander is just the type of guy you want on the hill for a winner-take-all Game 5. He calls to mind another Tigers ace, Jack Morris, who also seemed to pitch with a little extra mustard on the ball as soon as the leaves started changing colors in October.

Morris posted a 3.60 ERA in 1984 before going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA en route to a World Series championship. He won another title in 1991 with the Minnesota Twins, going 4-0 with 2.25 ERA after throwing 10 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series.

But like Morris, Verlander is fallible. If you’re not convinced, re-watch his duel with Barry Zito in Game 1 of last year’s World Series. While the Giants may have caught lightning in a bottle (twice) with Zito last October, he picked up the indelible win in the World Series because the bats managed to tag Verlander for five earned runs.

Pablo Sandoval is still property of the Giants until next winter, though, so the guys in the A’s clubhouse will need to step up and find a way to reverse their fortunes against Verlander to win only their second Division Series-clinching game in the past 13 tries.

Catching lightning in a bottle twice might be impossible, but this A’s team isn’t shy about scoring a few runs when everything’s on the line.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.A'sDetroit TIgersJustin VerlanderPaul Gackle

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Charles Joseph, who is represented by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, is facing deportation to Fiji. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Giving immigrants a second chance after incarceration

Legislation would allow some faced with deportation a chance to challenge their old convictions

The San Francisco Police Department released body camera footage of the alleged assault on Dacari Spiers. (Via SFPD Body Cam)
SF police officer to stand trial for assault over baton beating

A San Francisco police officer who prosecutors say unnecessarily beat a man… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed announced The City’s return to the red tier for COVID-19 precautions at Pier 39 on Tuesday<ins>, March 2, 2021</ins>. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
San Francisco enters red COVID tier, indoor dining to resume

Museums and gyms can reopen with capacity limits

Cole Odin Berggren, community programs director and drum and DJ instructor at Blue Bear School of Music in The City, holds a JackTrip device, which he says has greatly improved students’ experience of making music online. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
COVID-era musicians beginning to make connections

Software eliminates pesky delay plaguing most systems

Under the new plan, Twin Peaks Boulevard would be reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists until Christmas Tree Point.	(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board approves new plan for Twin Peaks Boulevard

Cuts vehicle-free space by half. Neighbors say crime, vandalism will still abound

Most Read