The Tigers have turned to Justin Verlander for wins at Kauffman Stadium for seven years. Why wouldn't the American League All-Stars?
Statistically, AL manager Ron Washington could have justified any one of several choices for starting Tuesday's All-Star Game, from Major League ERA leader and 2011 All-Star starter Jered Weaver to AL wins co-leader David Price to White Sox sensation Chris Sale. In the end, Washington turned to the man many recognize as the nastiest pitcher in baseball.
"He is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, not just the American League," Washington said at a Monday press conference at Arrowhead Stadium. "The joy that I have of giving him the ball tomorrow; he's well-rested. I expect a lot out of him, and I know he expects a lot out of himself."
Thus, a year after Verlander made the All-Star team but couldn't pitch amidst a season that earned him MVP and Cy Young honors, he'll get to make the first pitch.
Verlander will be opposed by Matt Cain, the Giants right-hander who threw a perfect game last month.
"What an honor it is to start my first All-Star Game," Verlander said Monday. "I've been to a few in the past and some I haven't had the opportunity to pitch, like last year, and some I've pitched out of the bullpen. But this is something different, and I'm going to relish every moment and hopefully play a part in helping the American league win."
Verlander hasn't had the same numbers that won him last year's awards, but he has had much of the same dominance. He entered the All-Star break tied for the Major League lead with 128 strikeouts and topping the big leagues with 132 2/3 innings pitched and five complete games. Verlander's 2.58 ERA ranks fourth among AL starters, while his nine victories put him two off the league-leading pace.
Verlander's WHIP ratio -- walks plus hits to innings pitched -- is 0.95, as he's allowed 96 hits and 30 walks over 132 2/3 innings. He's averaging 0.7 home runs per nine innings, actually better than last year.
Verlander tossed a complete-game four-hitter on Wednesday to beat the Twins, his fourth win in five starts, then said he didn't want a 2011 achievement award, starting the All-Star Game based on last year.
"Yeah, I had a good year last year, but I shouldn't be [awarded] for that," Verlander said last week. "If I get to start in the All-Star Game, I want to know it's because I've been the best pitcher up to this point. ...
"You're not owed anything in this game. Whoever's the best pitcher up to this point is owed that. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity last year. And who knows if I'd have had it anyway? [Jered] Weaver was really good up to that point as well."
The numbers say Verlander shouldn't have to worry about that. As a result, he will add an All-Star start to a resume that includes the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Award, a World Series start as a rookie, an AL Cy Young Award and an AL MVP Award, all before he turns 30 next February.
Verlander will be pitching on five days' rest, and he won't pitch again until Sunday in Baltimore, meaning he should be good for two innings if Washington wants that.
Verlander's history in Kansas City is nearly impeccable, with a 9-2 record and 1.83 ERA. He hasn't lost at Kauffman Stadium since 2009, going 4-0 in five starts. Verlander tossed a 131-pitch complete game there on April 16, when manager Jim Leyland made the now-famous mound visit to tell his ace he was going to get him fired for leaving him in so long.
His success there prompted Verlander to joke what kind of reception he might get when he's introduced on Tuesday.
"I can't wait to see if I get booed or cheered," he said last week. "It's in Kansas City, but it's AL, so they should be cheering for us. But it's a division rival."
Verlander won't have to wait long to take the field and find out.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET)/6:30 CT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.