Rookies Verlander, Reyes get Game 1 starts

DETROIT -- Even before the first pitch is thrown, the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers are making this World Series memorable.

Game 1 will have a pair of rookie starters for the first time, with Justin Verlander pitching Saturday night for the Tigers and Anthony Reyes for the Cardinals.

"I'm sure anyone that goes up on the mound in the World Series is going to be excited," Reyes said. "That's kind of good, knowing he's probably going to have the same feeling as me."

Reyes, 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 regular-season starts, has the fewest wins of any Game 1 starter in World Series history and is the first in 33 years with a losing regular-season record. He wasn't even on the Cardinals' roster for their first-round series against San Diego.

Despite Reyes' poor pedigree, Verlander doesn't think the Tigers are favored.

"I think we view ourselves as the underdogs, personally," Verlander said as the unexpected pennant winners prepared Friday on a cool, overcast day at Comerica Park. "Everybody has doubted us."

Quite a contrast from the last time these teams met in the World Series.

In 1968, the last World Series before playoffs, the Cardinals' Bob Gibson pitched a five-hit shutout and struck out a Series record 17 to beat the Tigers and 31-game winner Denny McLain 4-0 in the opener at the old Busch Stadium.

In the only other Series matchup between the clubs, the Cardinals' Dizzy Dean pitched an eight-hitter to defeat Alvin Crowder 8-3 in 1934's first game at Detroit's Navin Field, as Tiger Stadium was then known.

Verlander, 23, and Reyes, 25, have combined for 23 career wins -- when John Smoltz opened the 1996 Series for Atlanta, he had 24 victories in that year alone.

Verlander and Reyes will be the first rookies to start in the World Series since John Lackey led the Anaheim Angels over San Francisco in 2002's Game 7. Livan Hernandez was the last rookie to start Game 1, selected in 1997 by Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland -- now guiding the Tigers.

The previous low for wins by a Game 1 starter was set by Howard Ehmke for the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He went 7-2 during the regular season, then beat the Chicago Cubs and Charley Root 3-1 in Game 1.

Not since Jon Matlack opened the 1973 World Series for the New York Mets against Oakland after going 14-16 had a pitcher with a losing record started Game 1, according to Elias. The Athletics won that one 2-1 behind Ken Holtzman.

Verlander, 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA during the regular season, said he would have been held back for Game 3 had the New York Mets won the NL pennant. But when the Cardinals won Thursday night, he was Leyland's pick for Saturday.

Verlander packs 100 mph heat and is 1-0 in two postseason starts, but his 5.91 ERA in the playoffs was the highest among Tigers pitchers. He will be pitching on nine days' rest.

"I definitely used the time," he said Friday. "Pitching late into October my first year, the innings are a lot, and there's some fatigue going on. Being able to rest my arm a little bit and kind of recuperate before this next series definitely helps."

He didn't get a decision in the first round, allowing three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium as the Tigers rallied in Game 2 -- starting their seven-game winning streak. He won 8-5 at Oakland in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series despite giving up four runs and seven hits -- including homers to Milton Bradley and Eric Chavez -- in 5 1/3 innings.

Reyes was selected by Detroit on the 13th round of the 2002 amateur draft but stayed at Southern California for his senior year, then was taken by St. Louis in the 15th round a year later.

He pitched just once in the playoffs, starting Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets -- his first appearance since Oct. 1. He allowed runners in all four of his innings, walked four and threw 86 pitches. But he gave up his only runs on homers by Carlos Beltran and David Wright.

He found out Friday that he'll be starting.

"I'm just trying to not think about it right now, just trying to relax and just get rested up and get ready for tomorrow," he said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could have gone with Jason Marquis, who wasn't on his NLCS roster.

"It's not an easy call. We wrestled with this," La Russa said. "Anthony took the assignment in the NLCS. I think he handled himself well. The experience will be helpful tomorrow."

While Detroit had six days of rest following its sweep of Oakland, the Cardinals went to seven games against the New York Mets, using Jeff Weaver, Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan in the final two games. Weaver will open Game 2 for St. Louis, followed by Carpenter and Suppan.

Kenny Rogers will start Game 2 for Detroit, followed by Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman. Rogers pitched 15 shutout innings in the playoffs over two starts -- both in Detroit.

"We wanted Kenny to pitch two games at home," Leyland said.