Justin Verlander is really good at baseball. The July American League Pitcher of the Month has been on such a roll that some people are beginning to tout his case for the AL Cy Young Award. The numbers speak for themselves: he has a 2.64 ERA since May 3rd to go with a 3.03 FIP. If you Porcello out a start against the Cleveland Indians in late June, those numbers become a staggering 2.08 ERA and 2.58 FIP. Yeah, he’s pretty good at baseball.
I was lucky enough to attend his last start at Comerica Park on Saturday, an utterly dominant complete game victory over the Houston Astros. There was almost no doubt from the early stages of the game that he was pacing himself to go the distance, a skill that Verlander seemed to have down to a science in 2011 and 2012 but hadn’t manifested itself yet in 2016. If the big righty has really reached the point where he can will himself later into games, opposing lineups better watch out. We’ll find out tonight against the Mets as we watch the special treat the baseball gods have given us.
Oh, man, this pitching matchup.
New York Mets (56-52) at Detroit Tigers (59-49)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Amazin’ Avenue
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-5, 2.10 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (11-6, 3.54 ERA)
Thor is coming. In his second year in the MLB, Noah Syndergaard has improbably managed to improve on his already electric rookie year. About the only thing that has managed to slow down the young phenom is arm fatigue, which briefly caused panic to Mets fans. There may be something related to the fatigue problem: Syndergaard has walked 10 batters in his last four starts, compared to just 15 (!) walks in his first 16 appearances.
The arm fatigue has cost Thor none of his electric velocity, however. He can still throw an absolutely disgusting 100 mile-per-hour fastball with ease. Just go to Giphy.com and search Noah Syndergaard like I did and you’ll see many fastballs like this:
I’m already feeling squeamish at how James McCann is going to react to one of those. Then again, we've seen with Bruce Rondon how an electric fastball alone can’t earn you success in the MLB. How about Syndergaard's secondary stuff?
Yeah. His stuff is legit.
Hitter to fear: Yoenis Cespedes (.333/.364/.429 in 22 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Kelly Johnson (.000/.000/.000 in 14 plate appearances)
Cespedes is having a monster season in the Big Apple, hitting 22 big flies and earning a trip to the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, he will miss the series after being placed on the disabled list with a quad injury (#WonTheTrade). Meanwhile, Kelly Johnson is still in the majors and apparently has an .805 OPS in limited time. Verlander has struck him out six times in 14 at-bats.
This is going to be prime-time baseball. Syndergaard is one of baseball’s premiere young stars, while Verlander is a sure-fire Hall of Famer still dominating the league in his 11th full season. The storylines write themselves. It is worth noting that the Tigers have performed well against front-line starters -- they have knocked around Chris Sale, Jose Fernandez, Dallas Keuchel, and Steven Wright at various times -- Thor is a different kind of beast. Prepare yourselves for many strikeouts.
The game is called in a scoreless draw in the 36th inning, Syndergaard throwing 13 perfect innings before giving way to a solid 23-inning relief performance from Bartolo Colon. Verlander strikes out 53 in the complete game no-decision.