It is officially time to put the AL Central “race” to bed as the Chicago White Sox engineered a comeback against the definitely-not-great Cleveland bullpen, sweeping the Tribe in three games and effectively ending the non-race for the division crown.
More to the point was the crushing victory of counting stats and Justin Verlander’s MVP/Cy Young bona fides as the Tigers ace apologetically backed into his 22nd victory of the year. Sigh.
Justin Verlander posted a strange line this rainy afteroon. He surrendered two (2!) home runs to walking replacement player/guy who makes you think “he’d be a good bench bat for [insert team name here]” every off-season Shelley Duncan, accounting for four runs over six innings. But he allowed just one hit outside Duncan’s two bombs, walking two against eight strikeouts.
A mixed bag for Verlander against the sputtering and gasping Clevelands. He left the game with his team trailing 4-2, his day over after 113 pitches. Facing off against Cleveland’s best starter Justin Masterson, he had to think four runs allowed just might be too many.
Like the proven winner he is, Verlander willed his team to knock Cleveland’s starter Justin Masterson from the game before demanding Victor Martinez clout a grand slam to give his team the lead and put JV in line for the win.
With the damage done, Tigers closer Jose Valverde waited for his opportunity to swoop in for another save with by starting the inning with a two-run lead. He, of course, converted his 42nd comfortable save in a row.
Two more victories for the tyranny of counting stats. Verlander gets his decision and the “Tigers win when Verlander starts” narrative gets to live another day. Valverde turns in another clean inning, picking up his 33rd shutdown of the season compared to his 42 saves.
There’s the rub of my personal bias against “outdated” counting stats – they cut both ways. In this case, Verlander got a victory for a start in which he actually pitched pretty well. Valverde gets another save in a game where his win probability added contribution wasn’t entirely insignificant, though it was half of that contributed by setup man Joaquin Benoit.
Verlander’s Cy Young case is nearing escape velocity – he’s almost a shoe-in at this point. Voters will ignore wins right up to the point where Verlander wins 25. All statistical resolve will crumble under a torrent of giggles and “yeah buts!” in JV’s name. Twenty-five wins? Are you kidding me?! It’s over.