When the Comerica Park crowd rose to its feet last night to salute Justin Verlander after Orlando Cabrera broke up his bid for a second no-hitter of the season, it wasn’t so much acknowledgment of his performance as it was a message from Detroit Tigers fans that said, “Okay, we’re finally on board with you. Let’s do this.”
Even after two career no-hitters, Justin Verlander, for one reason or another, didn’t populate the rarefied air of Detroit sports superstars beloved by the city. He wasn’t even the most popular player on his team. That honor goes (or, went?) to Miguel Cabrera, a guy who is immensely talented, yet, doesn’t always represent the old English D like we would like it to be represented.
Verlander, on the other hand, save for the occasional F word that the Fox Sports Detroit cameras catch, doesn’t do anything to embarrass the city. He comes out every fifth day, makes batters look stupid, and goes back to the dugout. Repeat. But after flying under the radar for the better part of his career, last night was likely his coming out party.
When Francisco Liriano, a recent next-best-thing, nearly threw his second no-hitter of the season last week, he received a mention on SportsCenter, then they moved on to other highlights.
But Verlander’s near no-no led off SportsCenter last night and this morning.
So, why Verlander and not Liriano?
The answer is easy: Have you seen Verlander pitch?
He draws comparisons to Nolan Ryan, and rightfully so. He has a fastball that gets harder and faster the longer he pitches.
He throws a curveball that makes more batters bail out than any other pitcher I’ve seen.
Then he mixes in an offspeed pitch that usually touches the high-80’s, but is just offspeed enough to mix up a hitter’s timing.
And he can throw all of them for strikes.
We’ve reached the point, as fans, where we should start scheduling our evenings around his starts because every time he takes the mound, there is potential for something magical to happen, and, nasty stuff aside, that’s the true measure of a star pitcher.
As Rod Allen would say, “We see you, Verlander.”
Oh, yes. We see you.
Image borrowed from lakelandlocal’s Flickr page.