Justin Verlander has a little more gray in his hair and stubble these days.
Despite those details — and the fact he pitches for the Houston Astros now — it’s sometimes hard to tell if this is 2009 or 2022.
The ageless 39-year-old Verlander continues to make a case to win his third Cy Young Award. He now has a 13-3 record and 1.86 ERA after giving up just one run over seven innings in a 3-1 victory over the Mariners.
His stellar season is even more amazing considering he missed nearly two full years after Tommy John surgery, starting just once in the abbreviated 2020 season before missing the entire 2021 campaign. But the nine-time All-Star has come back better than ever, even touching 99 mph in his seventh — and final — inning against the Mariners.
“I feel like I haven’t been able to let it go like that in a long time,” Verlander said on Saturday.
Verlander’s push for a Cy Young Award is fairly rare for a player approaching 40 years old. Roger Clemens won at 42 back in 2004 when he won the award for the Astros, while Gaylord Perry was 40 when he won in 1978. Early Wynn was 39 in 1959.
Verlander will have plenty of competition for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan (10-3, 1.71 ERA) and Toronto’s Alex Manoah (11-4, 2.24) also have impressive resumes.
BIG HITTIN’ BLUE JAYS
The box score of the week came from Fenway Park, where the Blue Jays embarrassed the Red Sox in a 28-5 win that featured Raimel Tapia’s unlikely inside-the-park grand slam.
If any team was going to score 28 runs this season, it makes sense the Blue Jays would do it.
The Blue Jays have MLB’s highest team batting average with a .266 mark and are fourth in runs (460), sixth in home runs (124) and third in OPS (.769)
SEND IN THE SCOUTS
The hottest ticket last weekend — at least for MLB scouts — might have been in Phoenix, where two last-place teams were playing.
The Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks both have attractive candidates to be moved at the Aug. 2 trade deadline. The big name is obviously Washington slugger Juan Soto, who is still just 23 years old, doesn’t hit free agency until 2024 and reportedly turned down a $440 million offer from the Nationals earlier in the week.
Several of Soto’s teammates, including sluggers Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell, along with relievers Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr., could also be on the move.
But the D-backs are full of trade pieces, too. Veteran outfielder David Peralta, first baseman Christian Walker, All-Star reliever Joe Mantiply and left-hander Madison Bumgarner all might make sense for a contender to grab.
In Toronto’s 28-5 win over Boston, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. became one of dozens in MLB history to have six hits in a nine-inning game.
But only one player has seven hits in a nine-inning game in the modern era. Who is he?
THE RACE FOR 200
Will any pitcher hit 200 innings this season? Almost certainly.
Miami’s Sandy Alcantara is the most likely candidate and the closest thing to a true workhorse in the big leagues. He’s on pace to pitch about 230 innings, which would be the most in MLB since 2016 when David Price hit 230 innings with the Red Sox.
About a dozen pitchers around the league could reach 200 by the end of the season, including Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola, Atlanta’s Max Fried, St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas, New York’s Gerrit Cole and Toronto’s Manoah.
That would be improvement over 2021, when only four pitchers hit the 200-inning mark.
It wasn’t that long ago that 200 innings in a season was quite common. Back in 2010, 45 pitchers hit the mark.
Rennie Stennett went 7 for 7 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 22-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 16, 1975.