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For fans of the Detroit Tigers, this can still be a heartbreaking topic. But Justin Verlander’s storied career rolls on in Houston, and the milestones are starting to pile up. He’s not just ours anymore, but whatever comes, he’s going to go down in the books as one of a handful of greatest Tigers of all-time. On Friday night, Verlander passed another notable name in Tigers’ lore, Frank Tanana, on major league baseball’s all-time strikeout list.
Verlander made mincemeat of the Astros’ interstate rivals, the Texas Rangers, in a 3-0 victory at Minute Maid Park on Friday. He one hit them, giving up two walks, and punched out eight in a seven-inning outing. The seventh strikeout tied him at 22nd all-time in strikeouts alongside Tanana. In the seventh, with two outs, Verlander struck out Rougned Odor to claim the spot all alone with 2774 strikeouts total for his career.
Verlander is now just 29 strikeouts from catching the legendary Cy Young, who ranks 21st with 2803 strikeouts. Mike Mussina lurks ahead of Young at 2813, so Verlander should enter the top 20 by July on his current pace. He still needs 226 strikeouts to become the 18th player to reach 3000 strikeouts, but it’s certainly not out of the question that he’ll reach that mark by late September. A few more seasons at roughly this pace, and Verlander will force himself into the top ten all-time.
More and more, the Hall of Fame credentials are piling up for the 36-year-old ace. And he continues to show no signs of slowing down from what now appears an incredible late career peak starting in the second half of the 2015 season. The lack of the Cy Young awards he should arguably have won in 2012, 2016, and 2018, don’t look like they’re going to hold him back.
As for Tanana, the left-hander pitched parts of 21 seasons, from 1973-1993, and won 240 games. Drafted by the Angels, the flame-thrower lost his elite velocity due to arm injury and had to reinvent himself with craft and control. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Texas Rangers, before coming to Detroit in 1985. Tanana would pitch for the Tigers for eight seasons, with the highlight coming in a complete game shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays on the final day of the 1987 season to clinch a division title.