When Jose Altuve said, "I literally love Justin Verlander," everyone's hearts melted just a little. But, in fact, he had good reason to say it. We all do. Not since Randy Johnson pitched briefly for the Astros did a pitcher come in and make the kind of impact Verlander has. And not since Roger Clemens in 2005 has there been a better pitcher on the roster for this much of a season, and that is with all due respect to Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.
Wednesday night after his complete game shutout of the Angels, he sidled up to Astros field reporter Julia Morales and acted like he just showed up at the ballpark. He was affable, funny and this was after nine innings and 118 pitches. If he wasn't the best pitcher in baseball right now, you might have mistaken him for some dude who just got done eating a bunch of wings and was being interviewed for a man-on-the-street segment on local news. That personality will most certainly find him working in the media when he's done.
He has embraced Houston.
He wears Rockets gear, sits front row at games, throws T-shirts to fans, and that's just relating to one of the other sports teams in town. By all accounts, he genuinely loves Houston and its fans (why shouldn't he?), despite spending the vast majority of his career in another city and another uniform. Anyone who takes to H-Town that quickly deserves some love.
Setting aside the fact that she is a supermodel, is there a better celebrity super fan than Mrs. Verlander? Drake might come the closest, but Ms. Upton doesn't get in the face of opposing players. She shows up at games dressed in all manner of Astros-themed gear (much of it not standard issue) and she clearly loves being just a woman in the crowd cheering for her husband even though she is clearly the more famous of the two of them. For someone like her, she seems remarkably down to earth.
He eats innings like nobody else.
Now to baseball...if Verlander gets 30-plus starts this season, something he has done 12 of the last 13 seasons, he's going to go well over 200 innings. He's done that 11 of the last 12 seasons. He currently leads the league in that category. On nights when he takes the hill, the Astros bullpen may as well crack open a few cold ones and binge watch Game of Thrones.
He is leading the league in ERA by nearly half a run. But, that isn't just his ERA this year. That includes his ERA from last season with the 'Stros. He's also tops in WHIP and fourth in strikeouts (Gerrit Cole is first). His pitching is simply remarkable and we are witnessing it firsthand. Enjoy it. It doesn't come around often.