The final game: Justin Verlander stars with arm, bat for Detroit Tigers
Editor's note: Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros late Thursday night. We remember his final game in a Detroit Tigers uniform, Wednesday afternoon in Colorado:
DENVER – Before Wednesday’s game against the Rockies, catcher James McCann set a goal for teammate Justin Verlander.
“I said, ‘Hey, today’s a National League game. Your goal is to drive in more than you let in,’ ” McCann said.
After the game: “Well, I ended up tying,” Verlander said.
The Detroit Tigers right-hander recorded his first career RBI on a second-inning single and continued his second-half surge with six strong innings in a 6-2 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Though no signs are pointing toward a last-minute trade before Thursday's 11:59 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline, it could have been Verlander’s last start with the Tigers
“It wasn’t on my mind, then it was again, and such is social media, right?” Verlander said. “Yeah, it’s on my mind. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, but that’s not going to change what I have to do.”
Verlander was outstanding, getting swings and misses, inducing soft contact and again deploying a sharp slider that gave hitters little to no chance at getting to him. He allowed one run and three hits — a Charlie Blackmon home run in the sixth inning was his only blemish — with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Always the perfectionist, he said: “I would’ve liked to have gone deeper.”
Verlander was pulled after 98 pitches because he felt some fatigue in the back area, which he presumes was primarily from swinging but also from a combination of the altitude and dehydration.
“That’s a place I’ve never really gotten sore before, but you know, I’ll take it for an RBI,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about the issue, he said no.
Verlander opened the scoring with a bloop RBI single off Chad Bettis in the second inning. It was his fourth career hit.
“It’s not about taking pride in being a good hitter — I know I’m not a good hitter — it’s about taking pride in trying to help the team win,” Verlander said. “I’m not the kind of guy that just wants to be an American League pitcher that comes into the National League, even though I have been. It’s extremely hard to do.”
More offense came his way, with Nick Castellanos hitting his 19th home run — a solo — in the third inning and James McCann hitting his 13th — a three-run shot — in the fifth.
McCann’s homer was the “big blow,” manager Brad Ausmus said, which gave Verlander plenty of run support for his 10th win. It came after he fell behind, 0-2, in the count.
“I was just trying to let the ball travel, fight off fastballs and get a mistake, and that’s what I was able to do,” McCann said.
But the star — on the mound and at the plate — was Verlander. Since the All-Star break, he is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 671/3 innings.
“The most impressive thing is he continues to maintain his velocity, even deep into games,” Ausmus said. “He’s not 25 anymore.”
No, Verlander is 34 with a wealth of baseball experience, which made his first career RBI that much sweeter.
“It’s fun, man,” he said. “To be in my 12th year and to have a first, it’s always pretty fun.”