Consider any of those safely put to rest. In fact, if he's going to throw like this, he could well crack the top-five in Cy Young voting for the ninth time around or even win the hardware for the third time.
Saturday night in Seattle, Verlander completely dominated the game (HOU 4, SEA 0). He didn't allow a run. He didn't walk anyone. He struck out eight. He only gave up three hits and they were all singles. He got 17 swings and misses out of 87 pitches. He threw 64 strikes. There really wasn't anything negative about this outing. At all.
Perhaps more than anything else on the positive end, though, he was so incredibly efficient. Verlander's 87 pitches got him through eight innings. Including the playoffs, we haven't seen Verlander get through eight innings since all the way back in Sept. 1, 2019. That might not sound too long ago, until we consider it was before the sign stealing scandal or the COVID-19 pandemic. Yeah, that long ago.
Verlander was good last time out, giving up one run on three hits in five innings while striking out seven. He needed 80 pitches to get through those five innings and walked three. The walks and inefficiency were what prevented anyone from calling it a great outing. Then again, he's 39 years old and is coming off major arm surgery. With the proper caveats applied, surely Verlander and the Astros were ecstatic with the way things looked.
And then in his second outing on Saturday night, he looked like Prime Verlander.
This was just one outing, but knowing Verlander's track record and how good he looked in this outing, it's fair to say the Astros have their ace back.