DETROIT – When Justin Verlander left the mound after retiring the Dodgers in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon, he got a brief standing ovation from fans at Comerica Park.
Verlander’s two-hit, nine-strikeout domination of the Dodgers was just the latest in a long line of outstanding performances during a 13-year career in Detroit that has included six All-Star nominations, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP awards (both in 2011), two no-hitters and 16 postseason starts. But Tigers fans have spent the past two months savoring each of Verlander’s starts, unsure if they will see him again.
The Dodgers can relate. They don’t know if they might see Verlander again in October pitching for another team.
Amid constant speculation that he will be traded to a contender before the deadline for postseason eligibility, the 34-year-old Verlander has made himself an attractive commodity. He has posted a 2.36 ERA and 0.98 WHIP while holding opposing batters to a .189 average over his past nine starts.
“He definitely does (have a lot left in the tank),” said Curtis Granderson, a former Tiger teammate who put the only blemish on Verlander’s day Sunday with a solo home run off the foul pole in the sixth inning. “He’s probably the most competitive teammate I’ve ever had. If I was a right-handed pitcher coming up in any organization – high school, college, minor leagues – he would be a guy that I would model and emulate from his work ethic to the way he gets ready to go out there and pitch.
“If anything, I think the only reason he hasn’t been (traded) is the Tigers know how good a pitcher he is and definitely want something in equal return for him.”
The $56 million Verlander is owed over the next two seasons at an advanced age for a pitcher might have more to do with that. But Granderson can speak first hand about the pleasure of going from a team playing out the string to a championship contender.
“If he ends up with anybody but us, that team is…