The lone run he allowed came on a Buster Posey sac fly. Considering the Giants came into this one ranking a strong fourth in the NL in OPS, that's a fairly dominant outing. Yet it speaks multitudes that Verlander went out, allowed but a single run, retired 18 of the 22 batters he faced, and somehow saw his seasonal ERA get worse.
Yep, Verlander coming into this one had a manifestly absurd ERA of 1.05 after 10 starts. Now his ERA stands at 1.08. Shame on him for falling short of his established standards.
Remember after the 2014 season when many of us -- this scribe included -- were concluding out loud that Verlander was done and his Tigers contract would surely stand as one of the great boondoggles in the annals of same? Verlander has methodically laid waste to those conclusions, and in related matters he's looking better than ever.
He's now made 16 regular-season starts since being traded from Detroit to Houston toward the end of last August's waiver period, and over that span he's allowed a total of 15 runs in 108 2/3 innings. Throw in his six playoff appearances (five starts) during their run to the belt and the title last year, and Verlander has an ERA of 1.36 in 145 1/3 innings as an Astro. That's complete dominance at the run-prevention level, and the sample size isn't exactly tiny.
How's he done it? The excellent Houston defense has surely helped. However, Verlander has also begun favoring his slider over his curve, and he's used his changeup a bit more sparingly while also on rare occasion flashing a cutter. Most important, he's worked his velocity back up to peak levels ...
Long about 2014 -- you know, when some of us were writing him off -- Verlander's average fastball velocity slipped to around 93 mph, but now it's back up to 95-96. That's a big difference, especially when you Verlander's secondary offerings. That said, even a velocity rebound wouldn't lead you to think he'd be this otherworldly. But he is.
So what's ahead besides, you know, perhaps a second Cy Young Award? To get an idea, we'll turn to the SportsLine (@SportsLine on Twitter) Projection Model. Here's how it sees the remainder of the 2018 regular season going for Verlander ...
- 22 starts
- 142 IP
- 163 strikeouts
- 40 walks
- 2.39 ERA
- 19 quality starts
So there's a bit of regression expected, but that's still high-level excellence. If that comes to pass, then Verlander will end his age-35 campaign with an ERA of 1.95 in 216 2/3 innings with 256 strikeouts. That would be the first sub-2.00 ERA by an AL qualifier since Pedro Martinez back in 2000 (for what it's worth, Verlander's teammates Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton are also on pace to join this exclusive group). It would also make for one of the greatest seasons ever by a moundsman of Verlander's age.
The last time a pitcher ran a qualifying sub-2.00 ERA at age 35 or older? It was Spud Chandler back in 1943. Seventy-five years ago. Before that, it was Eddie Cicotte in 1919. Before that it was a string of seasons by none other than Cy Young. In all, it's been done just six times.
So, yes, Justin Verlander is waist-deep into what could be a truly legendary season.