Justin Verlander. The V is for Victory

Bull. Horse. Stud. Ace.

Those words could all describe Justin Verlander and last night he proved that he isn’t just one, but all of those adjectives wrapped up into one freakishly hard-throwing individual.

Justin Verlander wasn’t his 0.92 WHIP or 2.40 ERA self last night but that’s what made his start that much more impressive. Like any real ace would, Verlander battled through 8 gruelling innings against an all-star team line-up masking as a Major League team.

For me, Justin Verlander was more impressive last night than he has been at any point this season. That includes the no-hitter I watched against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Like many true aces do, Verlander struggled through the first inning. No surprise there. It also was no surprise that Verlander started to dominant as many true aces do in October. But a 7th inning double by Brett Gardner tied the game up at 4’s. A very good start turned into something rather ordinary for the Detroit Tiger stud.

But the Tigers roared back in the bottom of the 7th retaking the lead. Working on a modified 3 days rest, Justin Verlander came out for the 8th even though his pitch count was above 100.

Amazingly, that wasn’t the only thing that was above 100 late in the game. A tired Verlander was topping out at 101 mph with the game on the line. He was throwing harder than he did all game in the 7th and 8th innings. The TBS broadcast put up a graph early in the 8th inning showing Verlander’s velocity progression of the game, inning by inning. Naturally, Verlander’s speed gradually increased each inning with a major spike in the all important 7th inning.

He reached back like only a true ace can.

It didn’t matter though. The Yankees still touched him for 2 runs in the 7th inning.

After his team clawed back for a run in the bottom half of the inning, he fought back like only a true ace would.

The tiredness was apparent in the 7th inning. It was apparent in the 8th inning. No biggie though because it was of the utmost importance that Verlander finish out the 8th inning. Setup man Joaquin Benoit had pitched 2 innings the night before. Jose Valverde had thrown over 30 pitches in game 2 as well. With a 1 run lead against the New York Yankees in the pivotal game 3, Verlander had to come out for the 8th.

In 8 innings, Verlander bent but he didn’t break. He threw a scoreless 8th and gave way to Valverde and his ongoing save streak.

Mentally, Verlander looks to be as tough as they come. Facing the Yankee ace, C.C. Sabathia, who threw 106 pitches in 5.1 innings, Verlander was clearly unphased after putting his team in a hole early in the game.

He did this all under the immense pressures of October baseball. The immense pressures of being considered the game’s best pitcher. The immense pressures of possibly being the first pitcher in a long time to win the MVP. The immense pressures of playing the hated and storied New York Yankees.

A man isn’t measured by what he does when things are going well.

Wins for pitchers are slowly diminishing in value, and with good reason I might add. However, Justin Verlander last night truly won this game for the Tigers. He didn’t no hit his opponent like Roy Halladay or casually waltz through the Yankees like Cliff Lee did in recent history. What he did was take the bull by the horns and, when his team staked him to the game’s final lead in the bottom of the 7th, he came out and did what he had to do in the 8th.

In the process he not only put his team up 2-1 in the ALDS but he also brought Jose Valverde one step closer (no pun intended) to being able to say “I told you so” to everyone for his ridiculously stupid and not quite as clichéd guarantee.

Quite a player indeed.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Star Unfairness

Roy Halladay pitchers for the first time at Rogers Centre in a Phillies Uniform

Being unable to challenge our current beliefs. It’s a black mark on our society. We continually accept things because it’s the way it has always been done. I wish we could change that.

Related: Significant Injury?

Sports are similar to life in so many ways. The elite of society get the benefit of the doubt. For example, rich men get beautiful women and the beautiful women are so often let off the hook.

In this sense, professional sports are no different.

The Wade’ and Kobe’s in basketball get more fouls called, the Brady’s and Manning’s in football get more yellow flags tossed in their favour and the Roy Halladay’s of the world get a bigger strike zone.

And here I am thinking that equality was something society strived toward.

The Blue Jays and Phillies game today featured Roy Halladay’s long awaited return to the city of Toronto. The game also featured some very inconsistent but typical game calling from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

The fans sure let him know it and more so than any regular season game I have ever seen.

For 9 innings, Alfonso Marquez was giving the benefit to Roy Halladay while Blue Jay pitchers were forced to pitch in a confined strike zone. It all culminated in Blue Jay reliever Jon Rauch’s very amusing ejection. He had reason to be upset considering a 3-2 curve ball that caught the knees on Ryan Howard, that would have ended the inning, was called a ball. He blew up after the next batter, Shane Victorino, hit a single to drive in a run.

He didn’t blow up because of the one call though. It was the frustration of an entire game in which the better team and the better pitcher received better treatment. According to Pitch FX, the Blue Jays had 10 strikes called balls while the Phillies had 1.

The typicality in this kind of umpiring is nothing new. It is everything that is wrong with the mentality of society and how we see people above us. These people are special and we believe they should be treated in that way. Apparently, they have earned something that puts them above the rules.

Greg Maddux built a career on being able get strikes called on pitches thrown 3, 4 and even 5 inches off the plate. These were Pitches that batters had less of a chance at hitting than a chess champion has at picking up Jessica Alba. I guess umpires felt bad for Maddux and his perfect control. He needed extra room off the plate too.

The plate that is supposed to be set in stone. It is there for a reason yet umpires continually choose to expand it for stars like Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera. It makes great pitchers absolutely unhittable.

Star players haven’t earned the right to bend the rules and rookies shouldn’t have to earn the right to get calls within the rules. The rules are put in place to ensure fairness. Every single player should have earned the right to get the same call as the next no matter how many years they have played in the league or how many 0’s are in their contract.

Referees, umpires, fans, players, former players, writers and analysts all seem to find this appropriate. That should make us livid.

We expect superstars to get better treatment when it should not be the case. It is another one of those instances in society where we accept it because it is the norm and always has been.

Do you think it’s fair when multi-bizzilionaire Alex Rodriguez gets out of paying a speeding ticket and you don’t when you’re struggling to pay the bills with 2 kids and a second mortgage on the house? I didn’t think so.

It also isn’t fair for Carlos Villaneuva to have to fight for every strike when his considerably more talented counterpart Roy Halladay does not.

I’m not sure what makes me angrier. Star players receiving every edge imaginable or people unwilling to challenge completely illogical societal norms.

When are fans going to step and say that this isn’t okay? When are fans going to step up and say that we can’t ignore this any longer?

Talent across sports will never be on an equal plain but there is no reason why the rules can’t be. Stop excusing the problem with “he has earned it” and start challenging the issue at hand.

As similar as sports can be to life it still isn’t the real world. This might be a fact of life but it doesn’t have to be a fact in sports.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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