If there is a baseball god (and they aren’t a New York Mets fan), a pair of veteran aces who began the 2023 season as teammates in Queens will face off in the MLB playoffs in a Texas showdown with a trip to the World Series on the line. Dealt away from New York during a trade-deadline firesale that became necessary because the Mets were such a dumpster fire during the regular season, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are now on contending teams that will face off in the American League Championship series. While it’s not guaranteed to happen, there’s a chance that 38-year-old Scherzer will be able to return from injury and pitch for the Texas Rangers on the same night that 40-year-old Verlander takes the mound for the Houston Astros.
Dealing with a low-grade strain of his right teres major muscle that initially had him labeled as “unlikely” to pitch in the postseason, Scherzer has been throwing simulated games and sounds as if he is serious about returning to throw in the ALCS.
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“Give me a chance,” Scherzer said this week. “Give me a chance. Give me a chance. Let me get back into this thing. So I’ve been grinding away, doing everything I can to just be in position to have a chance. The guys have gone out there and provided that chance…When my number does get called, I’ll be ready.”
Hopefully if Scherzer’s number does get called, it’ll be when Verlander is slated to start for Houston. The two aces — who have one MVP trophy, three World Series rings, six Cy Young Awards, 17 All-Star appearances and more than 470 wins between them — have only faced each other once in their careers, and it was earlier this year after they were both traded to the Lone Star State. Pitching for Houston, Verlander got the better of his former teammate as he went seven innings and only gave up two runs on four hits. Scherzer, who also played with Verlander when they were both members of the Detroit Tigers, did not fare very well and gave up seven earned runs on six hits in just three innings.
Given Scherzer’s injury, there’s a possibility that would happen against Houston’s potent offense. There’s also the possibility that the injury will prevent him from coming back at all. But the best possible scenario is Scherzer returns to the mound in the ALCS for a pitcher’s duel with Verlander that all of baseball can enjoy (except the Mets).