- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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That was awesome.
I mean you, Justin Verlander.
I mean you, Jered Weaver.
Verlander tied a career high when he struck out 14 batters, dominating the New York Yankees in a 132-pitch effort in the Detroit Tigers' 7-2 victory on Monday night. His 130th pitch was a 100-mph fastball that Ichiro Suzuki somehow fouled off; his 131st pitch was an 86-mph changeup; his final pitch was an 82-mph curveball that will make grown men cry. Suzuki swung and missed, Verlander's night complete after eight innings, the home crowd of more than 41,000 giving him a thunderous ovation.
While Verlander throws 86-mph changeups, Weaver throws 86-mph fastballs. And somehow blows batters away with it. The Oakland A's were hopeless against Weaver's arsenal of fastballs, curveballs, changeups and sliders in the Los Angeles Angels' 4-0 victory. There's Josh Reddick striking out on an 88-mph fastball over the middle of the plate. There's Brandon Inge waving at a 3-2 slider. There's Eric Sogard grounding out on a 3-1, 85-mph fastball. Finally, there's Reddick again, lining on a slow, 69-mph curveball to end the game. Nine innings, 117 pitches, four hits, no walks, nine strikeouts. A Jered Weaver masterpiece.
"You always want that lead dog," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Weaver. "And Weave is that lead dog."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland echoed similar thoughts about Verlander: "Hopefully your ace is an ace."
Verlander is now 12-7 with a 2.51 ERA, his won-loss record influenced by poor run support (entering Monday's game, he had the eighth-lowest run support among qualified starters). Verlander leads the AL in innings and strikeouts, while ranking second to Weaver among starters in batting average allowed and OPS.
Weaver is now 15-1 with a 2.13 ERA, leading the AL in wins, ERA and routine fly balls to left field. He has won nine straight starts, with a 1.60 ERA over that span. It was his eighth start this year without allowing a run; no other starter has more than six (Johan Santana and Ryan Dempster) and even Verlander only has three such starts.
If much of this sounds familiar, it's because we were in a similar position a year ago, with Verlander and Weaver battling for the AL Cy Young Award. Verlander ended up the unanimous winner, but it's easy to forget it was a good debate much of the season. At this point a year ago, Verlander was 16-5 with a 2.30 ERA while Weaver was 14-5 with a 1.78 ERA. Verlander would win his next eight starts while Weaver sputtered to a 4.27 ERA over his final nine starts.
Verlander's big advantage over Weaver is he has thrown 37 more innings; and while voters have learned to pay less attention to win-loss records, it's hard to ignore Weaver's 15-1 record.
However, it's also more than a two-person race this year:
David Price: 14-4, 2.49 ERA, 148 IP, 146 SO, 44 BB, .222/.290/.321
Chris Sale: 13-3, 2.59 ERA, 132 IP, 121 SO, 31 BB, .217/.269/.324
Felix Hernandez: 10-5, 2.63 ERA, 164 IP, 159 SO, 43 BB, .231/.292/.320
Right now, I'd probably vote for Verlander. He has the big innings edge over Weaver and Sale, and he doesn't have the luxury of the same pitching-friendly home park like Weaver, Price or Hernandez. Still, it's a solid five-person race right now, as deep and interesting a Cy Young race as we've seen in years.
Who do you have?