Celebrating Justin Verlander’s 250th Win

Justin Verlander becomes the 50th pitcher with 250 wins in MLB history.

Justin Verlander began his 18th MLB season with 244 wins and a surefire Hall of Fame resume as he joined the Mets with a massive 2-year free agent contract. At that point, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would become the 50th pitcher in MLB history to reach the 250-win milestone and maybe even reach the fringes of 300.

Following injury, inconsistency, and the historic letdown of the highest-payroll-ever Mets, it took until late July for Verlander to win his sixth game of the season and write a new chapter among baseball’s record books.

With the former Tiger and Astro getting to 250 wins, he becomes the first hurler to reach the mark since CC Sabathia in 2019, and he will likely be the last one for a few seasons. Zack Greinke stands next on the active list with 224 wins, now running on fumes for the lowly Royals.

Max Scherzer (210) and Clayton Kershaw (207) are the only veterans with a realistic path to 250, among a dying breed of old-fashioned pitchers who were expected to go several innings and carry a rotation.

With Verlander reaching this historic milestone, it is a great moment to look back at some of his most memorable career performances. With a Rookie of the Year, 3 Cy Young awards, 6 other top-5 finishes, an MVP, two World Series championships, and a slew of monster games to choose from, it was definitely difficult to select a top 5, but this should mark a good reference point as he prepares his Cooperstown speech.


Honorable mention – an iconic video


In the middle of one of his worst seasons (4.54 ERA and 6.9 K/9 in 2014), Justin Verlander was still able to produce a major win in his life. Playing in Yankee Stadium, Verlander shot his shot as the kids would say, and soon after started a relationship with model Kate Upton. They got married in late 2017, becoming one of the most visible celebrity couples in baseball.


#5 – October 10, 2013 (ALDS Game 5)

Verlander’s emergence as a front-line pitcher coincided with the Detroit Tigers‘ rise from obscurity to a playoff fixture, as the team would reach the World Series in 2006, Verlander’s rookie year, and then play in October every year from 2010 to 2014.

At the beginning of it all, Verlander was perceived as a playoff disappointment, especially after suffering three high-profile losses in the World Series, as the Tigers failed to win it all.

However, during that span, there was one team that Verlander was able to victimize constantly: the Oakland Athletics. Prior to this highlighted Game 5, the righty had already faced the A’s in three playoff starts between the 2006 ALCS and 2012 ALDS, going 3-0 with 28 strikeouts over 21.1 innings en route to eliminating Oakland.

With the chance of breaking their hearts again in a packed Oakland Coliseum, Verlander delivered his best playoff start up to that point, besting Sonny Gray in an old-fashioned pitching duel. Over 8 masterful innings, the A’s were barely able to scratch two singles and a walk, while Verlander struck out 10.

Miguel Cabrera’s fourth-inning 2-run homer proved to be enough scoring, as it probably looked like a 10-0 for the A’s with the way Verlander was pitching that night.



#4 – June 12, 2007 


As it stands today, Justin Verlander is only one of 35 pitchers who have thrown multiple no-hitters in their career and only one of six with at least three (obviously leading all active pitchers in that category). After his first full season yielded a Rookie of the Year award and a World Series appearance, he had already established himself as one of the premier young pitchers in baseball.

He would take it up a notch during a random interleague matchup in June (remember when interleague games were scattered within a finite part of the calendar?), pitching the first no-hitter for Detroit since Jack Morris did it in 1984.

While Milwaukee did not feature a menacing lineup, they still had Prince Fielder (who would finish third in MVP voting), underrated players like Corey Hart and JJ Hardy, and even future manager Craig Counsell. It did not matter to Verlander, who hurled an absolute gem.

His only blemishes came via walks to Hardy and, for some reason, 3 of them to Bill Hall (!!!), who would finish that season with a 7.9 BB%. The free passes were more than compensated with 12 strikeouts and plenty of weak contact, as the Tigers cruised to a 4-0 win.

By Fangraphs’ revised game score, this no-no earned a 99, which represents the third-highest regular-season mark for Verlander.


#3 – May 18, 2012


Verlander had won an impressive tandem of Cy Young and MVP in 2011, winning an AL pitching triple crown and leading the Tigers to the postseason. The season also included his second no-hitter, as he blanked the Blue Jays, albeit with only 4 strikeouts and a walk.

2012 would be a slight step back, as he finished second in Cy Young voting and 8th in the MVP tally, though he still led the league in complete games, innings pitched, and strikeouts. In the early part of 2012, again as part of interleague play, Verlander matched up against Charlie Morton and the Pirates, a young team that was on the rise.

Facing a lineup that included future MVP Andrew McCutchen in the middle of many sub-.300 OBP hitters, Verlander took full advantage en route to a 100 Fangraphs game score that would become the highest of his Detroit tenure. He walked the second hitter of the game, Neil Walker, before retiring the next 18 Pirates as the Tigers produced a commanding lead.

Even as McCutchen walked in the seventh, Verlander entered the ninth with a chance of earning his third no-hitter, only to be foiled by Josh Harrison on a 1-2 count with one out. He would produce two harmless groundouts to close the game and earn the shutout, finishing his day with 12 strikeouts.

The win would also serve as a catalyst for the slow-starting Tigers, who had entered the game at 18-20, but ended up winning the pennant.

A recap of that game can be viewed here.


#2 – October 14, 2017  (ALCS Game 2)


Following his long stand as Detroit’s ace, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros on August 31, 2017 (remember when we had two separate trade deadlines?).

While he was still under contract through 2019, the Tigers’ playoff window was shut following two October-less seasons. It is still shocking that Houston’s trade package was so light (Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers – combined 0.4 career WAR) for a player who would become iconic for the Astros.

Following the trade, Verlander would win his five starts in Houston, with a minuscule 1.06 ERA and 0.64 WHIP, as the four runs he allowed came via solo homers. However, we all knew the Astros had acquired the veteran thinking of the postseason, where he would fight his previous demons and finally win his first championship.

The best playoff start of his Houston tenure came in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Yankees, a series that saw the Astros advance in 7 games, as the home team would come out on top every single time.

Facing a lineup that included a young Aaron Judge, the Astros’ new ace was at the top of his game, working around 5 hits and a walk to keep Houston right in the middle of a very tight 1-1 game that saw Yankee youngster Luis Severino and several relievers almost match Verlander throw-for-throw.

As the contest was at its most nail-biting apex, Verlander calmly allowed only two baserunners after the fifth inning, setting up Carlos Correa’s dramatic walk-off double to send the Astros with a commanding 2-0 lead to New York.

Verlander’s monster 124-pitch outing that included 13 strikeouts would become legendary for Houston, and he would complement it with another win in Game 6 and his first-ever World Series victory a few days later.


#1 – September 1, 2019

After an extremely successful mid-season trade to Houston in 2017, Justin Verlander had already solidified his standing as a future Hall of Famer, but it also added a second chapter of highlights and historic moments for the veteran.

By 2018, he finished second in Cy Young voting, leading the AL in strikeouts and WHIP. He would reclaim the top spot in 2019, producing what may arguably be the best season of his storied career.

With 21 wins, 223 innings pitched, 300 (!!!) strikeouts, and a 0.80 WHIP, Verlander was a force throughout the season. In the middle of all that, he produced one of the best single-game pitching performances of all time.

After already no-hitting the Blue Jays in Toronto back in 2011, Verlander returned to Canada seemingly on a mission. Even as the Jays were way out of playoff contention and suffered from several lineup injuries, their top four still featured OBPs over .340, including current stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Verlander would start the game a bit shaky, allowing a 5-pitch walk to Cavan Biggio – which would be the only baserunner of the game for Toronto. After that early hiccup, Verlander retired the next 26 batters, with only four of them even reaching a 3-ball count.

It was a masterclass for the veteran ace, as he would record his third no-hitter with a career-high 14 strikeouts. Following Bill James’ traditional game score formula, this game is only one of 16 all-time to reach the 100 mark during a 9-inning contest. Hang it in the Louvre … or at least in upstate New York.


Pablo Figueroa

Pablo Figueroa is a Baseball Writer here at Pitcher List, with experience as a writer since 2013. He lives in Aguascalientes, Mexico - proud home of Los Rieleros. When he´s not thinking about baseball , he's a husband, owns two dogs, watches random episodes of The Sopranos , plays padel, and works on his day job to pay the bills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login