A 35-year-old with almost 2,800 career innings on his arm isn’t supposed to be this good still.
Justin Verlander continued his miraculous run on Monday, holding one of the best offenses in baseball in the Yankees to just one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out five.
After 12 starts this season, Verlander has posted a microscopic 1.11 ERA and 0.71 WHIP to go along with a 98/15 K/BB ratio over 81 1/3 frames. In 23 appearances covering 152 regular and postseason innings for the Astros, Verlander holds a 1.36 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 179/28 K/BB. Those are real numbers.
Verlander won the American League Cy Young and MVP awards seven years ago in 2011 in his age-28 season, but he’s pitching even better now than he did then, three months after his 35th birthday. It really is incredible to watch and it feels like we might not be appreciating what he’s doing enough.
By the way, Verlander’s teammates, Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole, are Nos. 2 and 3 in the AL in ERA at 2.04 and 2.05, respectively. The Astros’ rotation holds a 2.44 ERA on the season, which is over a full run better than the next best AL rotation ERA (the Indians are at 3.50).
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Bieber to Debut Thursday
The Indians are giving one of their top pitching prospects a very generous birthday present.
Shane Bieber -- ranked by MLB.com as the team’s No. 3 overall prospect and No. 2 pitching prospect -- will be summoned from Triple-A Columbus to make his major league debut on Thursday in Minnesota. His debut will happen to fall on his 23rd birthday.
Bieber has posted some utterly ridiculous numbers in the minors after being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft out of UC-Santa Barbara. Over 262 2/3 innings, the right-hander holds a 2.19 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 244/15 K/BB ratio. Yes, you read that correctly. 15 walks in over 260 career innings.
Bieber has walked only three batters and struck out 61 across 65 1/3 frames and 10 starts between Double- and Triple-A. In his last outing for Columbus last Friday, he threw seven hitless innings in a rain-shortened no-hitter. The only runner to reach base did so on an error.
Now, we must note that Bieber doesn’t possess top-shelf stuff. It’s a repertoire that’s pretty average across the board. The key for him is elite command and control, as you might suspect from scouting the stat line. Major League hitters figure to hit Bieber hard if he’s not sharp. Of course, his stat line will also tell you he’s rarely not sharp.
Manager Terry Francona, for one, appears to be… ahem… a Belieber (sorry).
"(President of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) was afraid to bring him over in spring training because he knew we were going to want to latch on to him,” Francona said. “By all accounts he is in the mold of (Corey) Kluber. By routines and work ethic and poise."
It will be just a spot start for Bieber for the time being, as the reason he’s getting the call is the Indians want to give Trevor Bauer an extra day of rest after he threw 127 pitches in his last outing. However, the fifth spot in the Tribe’s rotation isn’t exactly set in stone. Danny Salazar (shoulder) and Ryan Merritt (shoulder, knee) remain sidelined with no end in sight, Josh Tomlin has already been demoted to the bullpen and Adam Plutko was knocked around Monday after a nice first couple starts. It’s not very difficult to see Bieber eventually running away with a rotation spot if he pitches well.
Acuna was diagnosed with a mild ACL sprain and also a lower back contusion as a result of his tumble after crossing first base in Sunday’s win over the Red Sox. What had looked like a potentially season-ending injury now might only keep Acuna out for as little as two weeks.
"I feel better than I did yesterday," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I just thank God it wasn't worse than it was."
Acuna apparently even lobbied to play in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader versus the Mets. That wasn’t going to happen, of course (he was placed on the 10-day disabled list, after all), but it does provide reason for optimism that this could be a short-term injury. He will be re-evaluated once his 10 days are up.
The Braves will use Preston Tucker as their main left fielder while Acuna is on the shelf. Tucker got off to an excellent start in the first couple weeks of this season but then fell into a funk. Prior to starting the first game of Monday’s doubleheader, he hadn’t made a start since Acuna’s promotion on April 25. Still, Tucker has some pop so there could be a little deep league value here. Dustin Peterson was also called up and he should see some starts against lefties.
American League Quick Hits: Trevor Cahill threw eight scoreless frames Monday in a no-decision against the Rays … Dee Gordon (toe) is on track to return from the disabled list on Thursday … Josh Donaldson exited Monday's game against the Red Sox with left calf tightness … Mookie Betts (side) missed his second straight game Monday … Marco Gonzales extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 19 1/3 innings when he gave up just one unearned run over 6 2/3 frames against the Rangers on Monday … Edwin Encarnacion went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI in a victory over the White Sox on Monday … Jean Segura (head) is expected to be back in the Mariners' lineup Tuesday after missing two starts … Andrew Benintendi went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI in a win over the Blue Jays on Monday … Chris Archer worked six shutout innings Monday in a no-decision versus the Athletics, fanning seven … Jonny Venters earned his first save since 2011 in the Rays' defeat of the Athletics on Monday, retiring the only batter he faced … Matt Skole went 2-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored in a loss to the Indians on Monday in his major league debut … Greg Bird went 2-for-4 with his first homer of the season as the Yankees fell to the Astros on Monday … The White Sox placed Matt Davidson on the disabled list Monday with back spasms … James McCann slugged a grand slam in a victory over the Angels on Monday … Josh Reddick (leg infection) will not return from the disabled list when he's first eligible … Mark Trumbo (knee) returned to the Orioles' lineup Monday against the Nationals …
National League Quick Hits: Carlos Martinez (lat) will make a rehab start this week and is on track to rejoin the Cardinals’ rotation next week … Nationals manager Davey Martinez said Monday that Daniel Murphy (knee) could be activated "fairly soon" … Anthony Rizzo went 3-for-4 with a solo home run and three RBI in the Cubs' win over the Pirates on Monday … Starting the first game of the doubleheader, Jacob deGrom pitched seven innings of one-run ball Monday in a no-decision against the Braves … Gio Gonzalez scattered six hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings versus the Orioles on Monday … Felipe Vazquez (forearm) said Monday that he feels better and expects to be available Tuesday … Nick Ahmed went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI as the Diamondbacks routed the Reds on Monday … Eugenio Suarez went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored Monday in the Reds' loss to the Diamondbacks … Anthony Rendon had a three-run homer and a double against the Orioles on Monday … Chris Owings hit a three-run homer and scored three runs Monday in the Diamondbacks' defeat of the Reds … The Rockies placed Adam Ottavino on the disabled list with a left oblique strain … Christian Yelich smacked a solo home run, singled and added a pair of stolen bases Monday against the Cardinals … Devin Mesoraco went 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBI and a walk versus the Braves on Monday … Matt Carpenter ripped a solo home run and added a bunt single Monday versus the Brewers … Making his first start out of the No. 5 spot since 2014, Ryan Braun reached base four times and stole a bag in Monday's win over the Cardinals … Mike Montgomery spun 5 2/3 scoreless innings Monday in the Cubs’ victory over the Pirates … Trevor Story went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and three runs scored as the Rockies edged the Giants in 10 innings Monday … Shelby Miller (elbow) will make his first rehab start Tuesday with High-A Visalia … The Padres placed Franchy Cordero on the disabled list with a right forearm strain and activated Hunter Renfroe … The Mets placed Wilmer Flores on the disabled list with lower back soreness … The Pirates placed Ivan Nova on the disabled list with a sprained right ring finger and recalled Nick Kingham to replace him in the rotation … Rhys Hoskins had to leave Monday's game against the Dodgers after a foul tip hit him in the mouth, but he’s expected to be OK … Gorkys Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a homer and a walk against the Rockies on Monday ...