The Astros look like on the cusp of getting Cy Younger frontrunner Justin Verlander again. Supervisor Dusty Baker tells reporters that whereas nothing is finalized but, the group’s tentative plan is for Verlander to return on Friday (Twitter link by way of Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Verlander hasn’t pitched since departing his Aug. 29 begin after three innings on account of what would ultimately be recognized as “fascial disruption” in his calf.
If he certainly returns Friday, it’ll go down as an 18-day absence for Verlander — a near-best case situation for an harm that, as acknowledged by the pitcher himself within the wake of his IL placement, might have sidelined him via a portion of the postseason had it been even marginally extra extreme.
The 39-year-old Verlander has had nothing wanting a outstanding season in his return from 2020 Tommy John surgical procedure — not solely reestablishing himself as a high-quality starter however resurfacing as a bona fide ace with a legit probability at his third Cy Younger Award. Lacking even a few begins might show a deciding issue, notably with Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah surging late within the season, however Verlander’s 1.84 ERA nonetheless tops American League pitchers. He’s now fallen to 18th within the league in innings pitched, nonetheless, narrowing any lead he might need beforehand held over the sector. He’s additionally returning with no minor league rehab stint, so it’s a minimum of potential the ’Stros shall be a little bit extra cautious than traditional together with his workload in his first outing.
The extent to which Verlander is ready to bounce again from this calf problem shall be telling with regard to the Cy Younger race, although the group focus is definitely simply on having him constructed as much as full power for his or her now-inevitable postseason run. With 20 video games left to play and a 12.5-game lead within the AL West, Houston hasn’t mathematically clinched the division crown, however that’s a fait accompli at this juncture. The Astros have the very best report within the American League and the second-best report in baseball, trailing solely the Dodgers, positioning them for a first-round bye on this yr’s newly expanded 12-team playoff format.
That may give Houston the posh of lining up the rotation nonetheless the group deems match. Assuming he’s at full power, Verlander could be the plain option to take the ball in Sport 1 of the American League Division Sequence, prone to be adopted by lefty Framber Valdez, who figures to get some down-ballot recognition on this yr’s Cy Younger voting himself. With Lance McCullers Jr. again on the lively roster and 25-year-old righties Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia every pitching nicely (Javier, specifically) — the Astros are deep in choices for his or her postseason rotation.