Justin Verlander is definitely back, for anyone who has not come to that conclusion.
It’s been a struggle most of the MLB season for the Detroit Tigers‘ former AL MVP and Cy Young award winner. He struggled most of the season to stay above .500, and just didn’t seem to have command of his pitches as in the past. There was talk, prematurely of course, that he had peaked and for whatever reason, he had lost his effectiveness as a pitcher.
There was also speculation that not only would he not be No. 1 in the Tigers’ starting rotation for the playoffs, but he might be moved down to No. 3. He’s No. 2, which is no shame considering Max Scherzer has had a season worthy of the Cy Young award. Verlander simply ran into one of those ruts that hits every pitcher now and then.
In the last few weeks of the regular season, Verlander looked sharp and seemed to be slowly getting back to where he had been most of his career. It was so encouraging in the last week of the regular season that there was some speculation of manager Jim Leyland wanting to give Verlander two starts should the divisional series with the Oakland Athletics go five games.
Despite the 1-0 Detroit loss that has tied the series 1-1, Saturday’s near-flawless performance for Verlander against the A’s makes the Tigers’ outlook brighter for the postseason.
Leyland made the wise decision to go with Scherzer at No. 1 and Verlander at No. 2, but if Verlander has regained his effectiveness as it appears he has, then the Tigers are going to be extremely tough for anyone to beat in the postseason. The Tigers would use Verlander in the second game of the ALCS if they can win the divisional series in less than five games, making Scherzer eligible for the opener of the ALCS. If Scherzer would have to pitch the fifth game against Oakland and the Tigers won, then Verlander is the obvious No. 1 pick for the ALCS opener.
Regardless, Verlander’s recent excellent performances indicate that the Tigers can count on him to be again among the best hurlers in the league during playoff time.