On June 12, 2007, with 33,555 fans standing and screaming, Milwaukee’s J.J. Hardy hit a fly ball that landed harmlessly into the glove of right fielder Magglio Ordonez. With that, Justin Verlander recorded the first no-hitter at Comerica Park.
On May 18, 2012, with one out in the ninth inning, Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison stroked a groundball up the middle into center field for a single. It was the first hit of the game off Verlander, who had struck out the side in the eighth and racked up a dozen K’s in all on his way to a one-hitter and a near no-no.
Those two magnificent games alone would give Justin Verlander a reputation for pitching well against National League foes. But the fact is, the Detroit hurler has far more on his résumé as a interleague performer. His victory on Friday evening at Comerica Park over the Mets gave JV a 27-4 career record against the other league in regular season action. A mark that makes you shake your head in amazement.
Friday’s game against the Mets was Verlander’s 38th start against an NL foe, dating back to his first which came back on June 17, 2006 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Verlander was in his rookie season and he didn’t have his best stuff that day — he allowed nine hits in a little over five innings — but he managed to keep the Cubs in check, surrendering just one earned run in a game the Tigers won 8-4.
Verlander has beaten 13 of the 16 teams that have been in the NL during his career (Houston switched to the AL later on). The only three remaining NL clubs that JV hasn’t defeated are the Giants, Marlins, and Reds. But he’s only faced those three teams a combined four times and he still has an ERA of 2.72 against those clubs.
The 27 wins against NL teams is tied for second all-time with Bartolo Colon (a much more average 27-19 in interleague games), and it trails only Mark Buehrle, who is an impressive 30-11. But Buehrle’s other stats are not as impressive as Verlander’s. The two are nearly identical in ERA in interlague games (Buehrle at 3.13 and Verlander at 3.04), but the Detroit ace has been downright stingy at allowing baserunners — he’s allowed only 7.3 hits per nine innings in starts against National League teams. Five times he’s allowed fewer than four hits in games he’s gone at least seven innings against the NL.
The only NL teams to beat Verlander in the regular season have been the Cardinals (in 2009), the Mets (in 2010), and the Tigers’ “natural rivals” the Pirates in 2014 and earlier this season. Even though the Bucs have handed Verlander half of his four losses against NL foes, JV has still beaten them four times, including that famous near no-hitter in 2012.
The 27-4 mark works out to a .871 winning percentage in interleague games for Verlander. His success is one of the reasons the Tigers have such a great record against Senior Circuit teams. The Tigers own baseball’s best record against the NL since 2007.
Of course, Detroit fans will remind you that in the most important games against the other league in the last decade, the Tigers are a miserable 1-8 (their mark in the 2006 and 2012 World Series losses).
Oddly, Verlander has been mortal against the NL in the World Series, losing all three of his starts (two against the Redbirds, one against the Giants) for a very unappealing ERA of 7.20. If Detroit makes it back to the Fall Classic, maybe we can get JV to think the calendar says June instead of October, so he can channel the amazing magic he has against the National League in the postseason.