Hello, old friend: Justin Verlander in line to pitch in Detroit next week

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Former Tigers ace Justin Verlander is scheduled to face his former team in Detroit next Wednesday when the Houston Astros visit.

Detroit — The welcome-back party continues next week at Comerica Park, though the reception for this old friend is going to be much heartier than the last one.

Brad Ausmus, now managing the Los Angeles Angels, returned to Detroit this week, and got his boos.

Justin Verlander, now the ace of the Houston Astros, will be back next week, and will get his cheers.

Verlander is in line to start the regular-season finale between the Tigers and Astros on Wednesday at Comerica Park. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. A rainout earlier in the Tigers-Astros series could disrupt plans, though, given he's a creature of habit, it's doubtful the Astros would push a Verlander start back. Only a rainout in the series finale is likely to disrupt these plans.

So, it'll be Verlander's second start in Detroit since he was traded from the Tigers in August 2017. He beat the Tigers in Detroit last September, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out 10 and walking one in seven innings — all after he got emotional during his pregame walk-in from the bullpen, when the Tigers played a video montage celebrating Verlander's years in Detroit.

That was Verlander's second start against Detroit. The first one didn't go so well for him. In Houston in July, the Tigers, despite striking out 12 times, beat him up for six runs on six hits (four home runs).

Verlander, 36, is having another great season, at 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 0.874 WHIP, with 60 strikeouts in 50.1 innings.

This spring, he signed a two-year, $66 million extension to stay with the Astros through 2021, rather than hit the open — and wildly underwhelming, these days — free-agent market in the offseason.

The Tigers' box office still hopes it's "Must-See JV" in Detroit, even if he's pitching for the Astros, as the home attendance could use a boost. The Tigers haven't drawn a home crowd of more than 20,000 since the second home game of the season. That said, his start last September only drew 19,711.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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