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May 12, 2024 7:46 am

Astros’ Justin Verlander relishes return to Detroit

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander returning to pitch at Detroit’s Comerica Park is always an event for him and Tigers fans.

Verlander, a longtime ace for the team, will start for the Houston Astros in the finale of a three-game series against the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

In a career that began in 2005, Verlander has made 191 career starts at Detroit’s home park, posting 100 wins and a 3.18 ERA. Although he was traded by the Tigers in 2017, Verlander always views games in the city as a sort of homecoming.

“It’ll always feel a little special,” he said. “The more removed you get, the less people you know on the other side, and that kind of changes it a little bit, but I think it’ll always be special for me to come back here.”

What hasn’t been special is the way this season has played out for the 41-year-old right-hander. Verlander (1-1, 4.43 ERA) started it on the injured list due to a shoulder injury.

He recorded quality outings in two of his first three starts after returning on April 19, then got rocked on Tuesday by the New York Yankees in his most recent outing. Verlander allowed seven runs and eight hits in five innings.

“I had an inkling that I wasn’t quite right,” Verlander said. “The lineups I pitched against didn’t know me as intimately as the Yankees, and maybe weren’t as veteran, so their approach wasn’t quite as refined. It points out that I wasn’t right. It lets me know I got work to do. … When I’m pitching well, I have much better control and deception.”

He ruled out any physical problem for his poor outing.

“I got some mechanical issues that became pretty prevalent to me, but physically, I feel good,” Verlander said. “I’m still putting in all the work to go out there and throw. It’s still working. My arm feels good.”

In six career starts against his former club, Verlander is 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA.

On Sunday, he’ll oppose Tigers right-hander Jack Flaherty (0-2, 3.86 ERA), who is still seeking his first win as a Tiger despite sharp performances in his last two outings.

Flaherty, who was signed as a free agent during the offseason, tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings while racking up 14 strikeouts against St. Louis on April 30. He followed that up by limiting Cleveland to two runs in six innings while striking out six on Monday.

“Jack was pretty dialed in,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said.

Flaherty has displayed outstanding control, walking only six while recording 56 strikeouts this season. In three of his seven starts, his teammates have only supported him with one run.

“All you can do is make pitches,” he said. “When I come out of the game, I want us to be ahead or have given us a chance to win. That’s our job.”

In three career starts against the Astros, Flaherty is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA.

The teams have split the first two games of the series. Detroit rolled to an 8-2 win on Saturday as Mark Canha hit a grand slam and Kerry Carpenter blasted a pair of homers.

The Tigers had lost six of their previous seven games.

“We’ll get the bats going. It’s just a matter of time,” Carpenter said in a postgame TV interview. “Tonight was just a good start to that.”

–Field Level Media

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