Justin Verlander has won a Cy Young Award, American League MVP, pitcher’s triple crown, pitched in the World Series, and started the All-Star game. He did something Saturday night that he had not done before: he got his first major league hit.
The Detroit Tigers ace picked up his first win of 2014 as they beat the San Diego Padres 6-2, but the talk in the Tigers clubhouse after the game was about Verlander’s bat, not his arm.
Verlander is in his ninth year in the big leagues, all with the Tigers. He had been 0-for-26 in his career until Saturday, although he had laid down 9 sacrifice bunts. His futility at the plate has been a constant topic among his teammates.
The first hit came in the second inning as Verlander laced a single up the middle off Padres starter Ian Kennedy. When Kennedy got the ball back he flipped it to the Padres dugout. The ball then made its way to the Tigers dugout. It is a long standing tradition when players get their first hit the ball is inscribed for the player as a souvenir.
“I think the Padres and probably Ian didn’t know that I had never had a hit,” Verlander said. “It’s been nine years in the big leagues now. They probably weren’t thinking about that but I sure as heck was. I was watching that ball like a hawk.”
Verlander also singled in the fourth inning on a hard hit ball to right field. Chris Denorfia came up throwing and Verlander barely beat the throw to first base.
“I hit it pretty hard too. It was a bang-bang play but I beat it out, thank goodness.” Verlander said.
Verlander did not seem comfortable with the phrase “helping your own cause” when asked. “Nah, my job is to pitch. “Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to get a hit,” tigers.com reported.
“We’re not going to hear the end of it, that’s for sure,” catcher Alex Avila said. We’ve got no more leverage.”
After Verlander’s first hit the Tigers bench roared its approval giving a standing ovation, especially starting pitchers Drew Smyly, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.
“I think it’s kind of an anomaly that I hadn’t had one yet,” Verlander said. “I hit one down the right-field line off [Tim] Lincecum in ’07. I came close in Colorado. I lined out in Cincy. I hit one an inch foul in Miami last year. I hit one an inch foul down the third-base line- I forget where that one was but it was a long time ago.” ESPN reported.
Verlander ran his career inter-league record to an incredible 22-2 with the win.
[Image via mlb.com]