It was a tale of two halves for Justin Verlander, as he struggled to a 5.08 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 over his first 15 regular-season starts, but then posted a 1.92 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 over his final 16. Walks were a problem in the first half (4.0 BB/9), but Verlander seemed to regain the feel for his slider later in the year, and that pitch was the key to his dominance down the stretch and through the postseason. The trade to Houston is huge for Verlander's fantasy value moving forward, as he has a great offense powering him, a much better defense behind him, and his home park was the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball the past two seasons. The 34-year-old has a lot of mileage on his arm, and the results could suffer if he's unable to keep the tick in velocity he added back last season, but Verlander deserves the benefit of the doubt. For now, he's still an ace in real life and fantasy.
Verlander allowed five singles and a walk while striking out three over seven scoreless innings in Monday's start against the Mets. Verlander was regular-season mode Monday, in command of his pitches and throwing strikes on 64 of 88 pitches. He never allowed more than one baserunner in an inning, and only once did a runner get to second base. He'll get one more spring start before he takes the ball Opening Day, but it will be a shorter outing. We'll back off a little bit [in] the next outing," manager A.J. Hinch told Glenn Sattell of MLB.com reports.
Verlander allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out four over five innings in Wednesday's start against the Cardinals. Verlander entered the games having allowed one run all spring before the Cardinals touched him for a pair of home runs Wednesday. He told Oliver Macklin of MLB.com that he was working on his pitches and threw some pitch sequences he wouldn't normally throw during the regular season. Despite the ugly results, Verlander felt he took another step in the right direction toward the regular season.
Verlander allowed one run on two hits with no walks while striking out eight over five innings and 61 pitches in Friday's game against the Cardinals, Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle reports. Verlander said following the game he's pleased where he's at after making his third start of the spring. The 35-year-old right-hander's goal is to get to around 95 pitches by his final spring start -- he's scheduled for three more starts before the regular season. Over three spring starts, Verlander has given up just one run and struck out 17 over 10 innings.
Manager A.J. Hinch announced Monday that Verlander will start for the Astros on Opening Day, Julia Morales of AT&T SportsNet Southwest reports. Verlander will get the ball over Dallas Keuchel, who has toed the rubber for Houston on Opening Day in each of the previous three seasons. The 35-year-old will look to pick up where he left off in his first full season in Houston; he went 5-0 while posting a 1.06 ERA and 43:5 K:BB across 34 innings after being acquired by the Astros at the trade deadline last year.
Verlander allowed two hits and struck out five over three innings Saturday against the Nationals, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle reports. Verlander made his second start of the spring and was sharp for a second straight outing, throwing 28 of 38 pitches for strikes. He was so efficient that he did not reach his goal of 50 pitches. Verlander's struck out nine batters over five scoreless spring innings.