Justin Verlander has always been a fiery pitcher. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Game 7 of the World Series or game 132 of the regular season and his team is throttling their opponent 9-0 thanks to his outstanding pitching. Verlander is out for blood, and if you get in the way of his pursuit, you could be the one bleeding.
And so it was that, during the exact scenario mentioned above, with the Astros beating the Rays 9-0, with Verlander having given up no runs and only four hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched, we saw Verlander’s passion for perfection come out. After a questionable call by home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg, which led to a double for Tommy Pham instead of a strikeout one pitch earlier, Verlander yelled at Hoberg and was ejected. Then he went after Hoberg momentarily before being restrained and walked off the field.
Name another pitcher who would have done something like this. Clayton Kershaw? Please. The guy wouldn’t have even blinked. He’s more stoic than a statue. But that’s the beauty of Verlander: he cares so much, even one double in a blowout game that won’t impact the Astros playoff positioning scrapes at his stomach to the point where he explodes. And right there, he did.
Some might consider this excessive. But isn’t this why we love athletes like Tiger Woods and Tom Brady and Michael Jordan? They care about winning as much as their fans care about them winning. They put their hearts on the line, and when it works for them, they celebrate like us, and when they lose, they suffer like us too.
Verlander suffered in that moment even though his team was winning and he was pitching great, proving even wins aren’t enough for a man seeking perfection.