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Tigers vs. Astros Preview: Justin Verlander is here and yeah this probably won’t go well

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Hey man, I’m just here for the VerHagen.

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MLB: Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m excited for a game of Tigers baseball. Today, aces will square off on the mound, as the two-headed monster of Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen will take on the American League Cy Young award favorite and Detroit Tigers legend Justin Verlander.

There isn’t a ton to be said about Verlander other than wow. His 2.81 ERA is second-best in the American League behind Rays ace and former Astro Charlie Morton (2.77). Verlander’s one weakness comes from the long ball. He allows 1.64 home runs per nine innings, seventh-most in baseball (that said, 25 of the 31 home runs that Verlander has allowed have come off of solo shots). Today will be a great chance for him to improve his numbers, however, as he will face this historically poor Tigers offense. When Verlander faced the Tigers this past May, he spun seven innings of one-run ball, with the lone run coming on a solo home run by JaCoby Jones.

The Tigers have had great success on the mound since deciding to use Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen as a tandem — well, at least from VerHagen.

Daniel Norris & Drew VerHagen, August 2019

Date Pitcher Final Line
Date Pitcher Final Line
8/6/19 Daniel Norris 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (2 HR allowed)
8/6/19 Drew VerHagen 5 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (0 HR allowed)
8/11/19 Daniel Norris 3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (3 HR allowed)
8/11/19 Drew VerHagen 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2 HR allowed)
8/16/19 Daniel Norris 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (0 HR allowed)
8/16/19 Drew VerHagen 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (0 HR allowed)

As you can see, Norris has had major issues keeping the ball in the park, and has posted a 6.17 ERA this month despite a clean appearance in his last start (and his 8.87 FIP shows that he is really struggling). VerHagen, meanwhile, has worked his way to a 1.80 ERA this month, and while his 4.01 FIP in August indicates that he is getting lucky, that’s still an admirable FIP for VerHagen as he goes out and pitches five innings every time out.

Detroit Tigers (37-86) at Houston Astros (81-46)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park
SB Nation site: Crawfish Boxes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, , fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Daniel Norris (3-10, 4.82 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.81 ERA)

Key matchup: Drew VerHagen vs. The second time through the order

Look. Maybe Daniel Norris gives up four runs in the first three innings of this game and things are over before they began. But maybe this game is still clean when VerHagen comes in. He has been going through the order twice with teams this month. In the 7 23 of VerHagen’s 15 innings pitched this August that came the first time through the order, he has allowed four hits, walked one batter, struck out six, and allowed zero earned runs. In the 6 13 innings that have come facing the order a second time, he has allowed seven hits, issued zero walks, struck out six, and allowed three earned runs. (Surprisingly, VerHagen has gotten three outs facing guys on their third turn this month. In that combined one inning of work, he has allowed one hit and no earned runs, and struck out one batter.)

If the wheels don’t fall off with Norris on the mound, VerHagen’s had a hot streak going in his early innings of relief (it’s almost like he’s the perfect pitcher to have an Opener for when his command is on). The combined work he has done the second time through the order would still be good for a quality start, but is a decent bit worse. Let’s see if he can keep pitching well after hitters have already seen him once.

Prediction

Justin Verlander throws the third no-hitter of his career. I’m just going to keep predicting this until he, A: does it, or B: retires.