Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander Proving He's the Best Pitcher in Baseball

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2012

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 06: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the first inning during the game against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park on August 6, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Justin Verlander isn't human.

On Monday night, Verlander matched a career high with 14 strikeouts, on 132 pitches in eight innings of work, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 7-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Verlander gave up zero earned runs (two unearned) on eight hits and walked only one batter, proving once again that he's the best active pitcher in baseball—and arguably the best ever.

The 29-year-old ace, who led Detroit to its fifth straight win and ninth consecutive victory at home, improved to 12-7 this season, decreasing his ERA to 2.51, and carved up one of the most dangerous lineups in the league.

Verlander's ability seems almost inhuman.

The defending American League MVP threw 96 of 132 pitches for strikes, reached 100 mph on his 130th pitch, struck out Ichiro—one of the hardest players in MLB to strike out—three times and struck out the side in the eighth inning.

With his performance on Monday, Verlander became the first Tigers pitcher to earn 14 strikeouts against the Yankees since Jim Bunning did it in 1958.

He leads MLB with 166 strikeouts this season and moved into sixth place in Tigers history with 1,381 strikeouts, passing George Mullin.

But after Monday's gem, Verlander didn't want to talk about personal accomplishments or about how he just dominated one of the best teams in baseball in a game nationally televised on ESPN.

Being vintage Verlander, he talked about rebounding from the two bad starts he had prior to Monday's game.

"I wasn't impatient, just a little bit angry," Verlander said to Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News. "Two starts in a row, one inning hurt me, and I felt like I was letting the team down. I needed to pitch better."

Baseball purists might argue that Verlander shouldn't be mentioned in the same all-time breath with greats like Bob Gibson, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan, but Verlander's resume the past few seasons has given him a serious argument.

Verlander is one of 27 pitchers ever to throw two career no-hitters and almost earned a third this season, taking a no-no into the ninth against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 18. 

The right-hander is 119-64 overall, currently in his eighth MLB season; has a 3.42 career ERA; and, since 2009, is 73-30 with an ERA of 2.93.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he can relax a little more than usual when Verlander is on the mound.

"We were short in the bullpen," Leyland said to Tom Gage of The Detroit News. "So we needed the ace to pitch like an ace. He did that and more. He gave the crowd what it paid for. They come to see stars, and tonight was almost a perfect night from that aspect because Justin pitched well."

Verlander doesn't like to acknowledge personal feats or pat himself on the back, but his accomplishments are tough to ignore.

He was the first pitcher to be named MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starter to earn MVP honors since Roger Clemens in 1986. His laundry list of accomplishments and awards include being a five-time All-Star, the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year and the 2011 AL Cy Young winner, among others.

Verlander sets himself apart from the rest of the elite Major League pitchers with his ability to get better—and throw harder—the deeper he goes into games.

He has the ability to dial it up to triple digits in the first inning and whenever he wants but prefers not to unleash his 100 mph fastball until crucial moments call for it, like in his latest win against New York.

Verlander's performance on Monday even garnered praise from Yankees manager Joe Girardi after the game.

"That’s why he’s an ace and why he’s got a Cy Young on his mantle," Girardi said to Matthew Mowery of The Oakland (Mich.) Press. "He works 250 innings and wins 18 or 20 games every year."

Verlander is quickly climbing up the all-time ranks in essentially every major category, and, at 29, he still has about a decade of work left to do.

Every time he takes the hill, Verlander shows he's the best pitcher playing today, and when it's all said and done, he'll prove to be the best pitcher that's ever lived.