Dan's Dugout: Invincible Verlander Validates Houston's Trust • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Invincible Verlander Validates Houston’s Trust


Baseball is not just a game of inches but a game of seconds.

Its only clock is the one that counts down to the trade deadlines at the end of July and August.

The Houston Astros made a great deal in landing Justin Verlander

The Houston Astros made a great deal in landing Justin Verlander

The Houston Astros, champions of the American League for the first time, got there mainly because they dedicated months, weeks, days, and hours to securing the services of Justin Verlander, the best righthander in baseball.

Unable to complete a deal by the regular deadline, the Astros kept talking even with the added burden of waivers during the dog days of August.

Going nowhere, the Detroit Tigers placed their star pitcher on waivers, thinking that no one would claim his $28 million contract.

They were right, since he cleared the waiver wire without a claim, making him available for trade to any team.

Enter the Astros, a heavy-hitting juggernaut steered by a shrewd front office with the foresight to realize a trip to the World Series wouldn’t happen without another solid starter.

Houston already had Dallas Keuchel, a lefthander with a Cy Young Award on his resume, and Lance McCullers Jr., a talented but injury-prone righty who had never won more than seven games in a season. But it needed another ace – and apparently had the minor-league prospects to land one.

Justin Verlander seeks his first World Series win

Justin Verlander seeks his first World Series win

All that was left was for Verlander to consent. He had spent his entire career in Detroit,winning four strikeout crowns, throwing two no-hitters, and even winning the rare Triple Crown of pitching: league leadership in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average.

The American League’s MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 2011, Verlander also was a six-time All-Star. But switching teams with a month to go wasn’t something he decided easily.

It actually took a telephone call from Keuchel, who convinced the Virginia native that he could reach the World Series if he waived his no-trade clause.

So actually, Verlander went through waivers twice – once by his team and once by himself.

It was the smartest decision since Paul Revere mounted his horse. Or close to that anyway.

Justin Verlander has been a stud for years

Justin Verlander has been a stud for years

Verlander won all nine of his Houston starts, three of them in the postseason, and added a Championship Series MVP award to a trophy shelf that already includes Kate Upton.

After he threw 124 pitches in a 2-1 win over the Yankees in the second game of the ALCS, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “He chose to come here for games like this and beyond.”

Good prediction: Verlander threw seven scoreless innings as the Astros won Game 6 to even a series they won the next night.

For the fifth time in Championship Series history, both teams won all their home games. And having Verlander take the Minute Maid mound twice certainly helped the Astros.

Now he needs to continue his magic against another 100-win team.

The 225-pound righthander lost both starts against St. Louis as a rookie in 2006 and fared just as poorly six years later, when he yielded five runs in four innings as San Francisco swept.

Now it’s the 6’5″ Verlander who is the real giant in the room.

He tinkered with his pitching mechanics this year even before leaving Detroit and was having a solid second half before the trade.

He’ll turn 35 on February 20 but will enter the 2018 season as ace of the Astros no matter what happens the World Series against Los Angeles.

Justin Verlander has won all nine of his Astros appearances Credit: Lisa Luevanos

Justin Verlander has won all nine of his Astros appearances
Credit: Lisa Luevanosin

Remembering the phone call that convinced him, Verlander told reporters, “Dallas said I wouldn’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. That stuck with me.”

With 188 regular-season wins, Verlander is virtually certain to vault over the 200-win level next summer. But it would take an average of 20 wins over the next six seasons for him to join the exclusive 300 Club, where only 24 pitchers reside.

First, he’s focused on the Dodgers, whose talented pitching staff is topped by lefthander Clayton Kershaw. Most experts concede Kershaw, headed for a fourth Cy Young this season, is the best pitcher on the planet.

Verlander hopes to change that conception.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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