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Tigers vs. Astros Preview: Justin Verlander is back and it’s going to be really weird

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Verlander is that ex who has been doing really, really well lately.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure how to handle this. We have seen Justin Verlander wearing a new uniform for a full year now, and that’s OK. We even saw him pitch against the Tigers once, and that was bearable. But seeing him take the mound at Comerica Park for the 188th time in his career — first as a visitor, most importantly — is yet another gut punch in a season full of them.

Verlander’s trade was a necessity for the franchise at the time, and I’m happy for the success he has enjoyed since leaving, but seeing him in another uniform at Comerica Park will sting. He was the face of the Tigers during some of the best and most important years of the franchise since I’ve been a fan, and it’s unfortunate that the team wasn’t able to deliver the World Series ring that he (and others) so blatantly deserved for their time and effort here in Detroit. Winning a championship with Houston has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest pitchers of our generation (and all-time), and all but ensures he will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It’s just too bad that couldn’t all happen while he played for the Tigers. Here’s to Verlander getting the hero’s welcome he deserves at Comerica Park tonight anyway.

Houston Astros (89-54) at Detroit Tigers (59-84)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: The Crawfish Boxes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (14-9, 2.73 ERA) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-9, 4.90 ERA)

Game 144 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Verlander 188.0 33.6 4.6 3.04 5.3
Liriano 112.0 17.7 12.8 5.60 -0.3

Verlander has looked human since last facing the Tigers. After coughing up six runs (five earned) in six innings against Detroit back on July 15, Verlander has allowed a 3.93 ERA in 50 13 second half innings. He has 76 strikeouts to 10 walks during that span, but has given up 11 home runs in that stretch. This includes three multi-homer games, all against divisional opponents, and four in four road starts.

However, most of it stems from one bad start against the Seattle Mariners on August 3. Take that out and his ERA drops to under 3 with an equally ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio. So long as he can keep the ball in the yard — his second half xFIP is an incredible 2.48 — he is damn near unhittable. That’s not the best matchup for a team sitting dead-last in the American League in home runs.

Key matchup: Anyone attending this game vs. parking

Enjoy that traffic, y’all.

Hey Roger, he doesn’t need anymore help...

Prediction

Verlander throws a no-hitter.

Gameday reading