Last night, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander picked up his first win of the season, as well as the first two hits of his MLB career in a 6-2 victory against the San Diego Padres. The slugging Verlander alone outhit the Tigers’ offense of the previous night, which was one-hit by Andrew Cashner. He is now batting a cool .667 on the season.
However, for as great as it was to see Verlander pick up his first two big league knocks, he makes his money with his arm, and he certainly brought that to the ballpark with him last night as well. Verlander went seven innings, allowed just two earned runs, one walk, and recorded eight strikeouts. He is now 1-1 on the season with a crisp 2.57 ERA.
As 2014 is going to be a very important year for Verlander, it could in fact be the most important of the now 31 year old’s career.
Prior to the beginning of the 2013 campaign, Verlander signed a five-year contract extension with the Tigers that will keep him in the Motor City through at least 2019. Verlander then ended up having what was widely considered to be the second-worst season of his career in 2013, and would later give fans quite the scare when it was announced that he had undergone core muscle surgery in January of this year.
However, Verlander would quickly alleviate the fans’ anxiety by pitching 20 scoreless innings in Spring Training while recording 17 strikeouts, and it was hoped that he would carry that success into the regular season. So far, it looks like he has.
Although Verlander had an uncharacteristic year in 2013, he is still only three years removed from his magical 2011 campaign where he went 24-5 and won the AL Cy Young award, and also the AL MVP award. Moreover, he is only two years removed from a very stellar 2012 season where he went 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA. His performance in Spring Training and his first three starts of the regular season are a great indication that he is capable of returning to those numbers.
At 31, Verlander is still in his prime and is still a fierce competitor. As the season progresses, look to see more of the Verlander of 2009-12, as opposed to the Verlander of 2013. Verlander will prove that he is still worth the money and the years that the Tigers have given him.