By: Trevor Hooth
Justin Verlander trots out to the mound at Comerica Park like he has done hundreds of times before. He goes through his warm-ups, the crowd is giddy with anticipation for first pitch. Just his name stirs excitement around the city.
Today, he is greeted with a standing ovation from a crowd that hasn’t seen him pitch since August 30 of last year. This time, Verlander is sporting “Houston” across his chest, and some new jewelry on his hand. One thing is certain, Detroit is happy to get a glimpse of their former ace.
Of all things, redemption is the name of the game. Verlander has pitched against the Tigers once before at Minute Maid Park, and he surrendered five earned runs across six innings. All of the runs given up overshadow his 12 strikeouts from that game.
On the other side of the lineup card, Tigers fans were excited to see top prospect Christin Stewart make his debut. He hit second. The veteran quickly found himself in an 0-2 count, but the rookie seemed unfazed, connecting with a fastball up in the strike zone for what was destined for extra bases, if it weren’t for a pretty running catch from George Springer.
It was only the second inning when the youthful Tigers lineup got to him. Rookie Dawel Lugo drove a single into left field, bringing in Niko Goodrum. A bit of luck stopped the bleeding, when JaCoby Jones lined out to third and allowed Alex Bregman to double off Ronny Rodriguez at second.
This time around, Verlander scattered two runs across seven innings, striking out 10. He was able to collect the win after Francisco Liriano let up three unearned runs.
One of the six hits given up by Verlander was to Stewart in the sixth inning. The prospect hit a single to right field to record his first Major League hit.
On his way out, Verlander was sent off in the same manner he was greeted. The Tiger faithful treated him as if he was still one of their own. The only difference this time is that we don’t know when he will be back in Detroit. No matter what, Verlander will always be welcome back home.
Trevor Hooth is a media relations intern for the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, Toledo Mud Hens, and a former intern in the 760-AM WJR sports department.