After a strong finish to an injury shortened 2015 season, many believed that Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander had finally returned to the form that made him a Cy Young winner and AL MVP winner. There were hopes that Verlander would once again be the ace that Detroit needed in their questionable rotation.
Unfortunately, things did not start out that way for Verlander and the Tigers. After his first six starts of the season, Verlander owned an abysmal 6.49 ERA while getting tagged for 7 earned runs in two separate games. All of the good feelings from the end of 2015 faded in a matter of a month, and fans were questioning if this was the end for their former ace.
The only one who didn’t doubt Justin Verlander’s abilities was Justin Verlander himself. Following his start on May 3rd, a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, where he gave up 7 earned runs, Verlander took to Twitter to issue a proclamation.
I'm going to dominate soon! I'm close. Doubt me if you want… We'll see. #gotigers
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) May 4, 2016
Many who saw the tweet shrugged it off and laughed at Verlander, most even calling him out. It was Verlander though who wound up getting the last laugh.
Since the bold tweet, Verlander has been nothing short of amazing. In the 27 starts since that game on May 3rd, he owns a 2.47 ERA with 2 complete games in that stretch. He has returned to the ace that the Tigers needed in their rotation, even with the emergence of rookie Michael Fulmer as another ace. Verlander has given up more than three runs on only three separate occasions in those 27 starts, and has the most strikeouts in baseball this season with 249. His 1.002 WHIP also is tops in baseball, showing how many men he is keeping off the base paths.
Verlander has quietly, yet loudly, inserted himself into the Cy Young race in the American League. Will he win? Most likely not with the way Indians pitcher Corey Kluber has pitched this year. He will get one final chance to solidify his case though on Sunday afternoon in his final start of the 2016 regular season. He will be taking on an Atlanta team that had been hot on offense coming into the final season, but was shut down by Daniel Norris on Friday, and held in check by Jordan Zimmermann Saturday until the bullpen surrendered three additional runs.
Ask Verlander and he will tell you that personal awards do not matter to him. He wants his team to win, and will do whatever it takes to help them achieve the goal of winning a World Series. Today’s game is a must win for the Tigers if they want their season to continue past the regular season (they also need some help from the Yankees and/or Red Sox). Verlander has a history of shining in big games, and tends to thrive off the atmosphere of important games. This should help him get amped up to be at the top of his game in the most important start of the 2016 season.
Is there anything that Verlander can do to earn the Cy Young award this season? Maybe not, but at least he has a chance to make a strong bid at the award. Of course, he will only be happy with one trophy at the end of the season. That elusive World Series championship.