Everybody has some advice for “when life throws you a curveball.” When Justin Verlander throws you a curveball, your choice is simple; you flail aimlessly and look completely hysterical, or you stand there like the house by the side of the road and watch it go by. Helpless batters from the Boston Red Sox more often took the latter option on Opening Day Thursday afternoon, perhaps wisely.
Verlander, meanwhile, appeared in midseason form—midseason 2011 form, at that—and, while he lost out on his first career Opening Day victory, he took a nice first step towards proving his historic MVP season was no fluke. His line against the dangerous Boston Red Sox: 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 7 SO.
Meanwhile, across baseball, other aces were doing their best Verlander imitations. In seven Thursday games, just 32 earned runs (33 total) were scored in 137.1 innings. That comes out to a 2.10 ERA. That figure, already significantly lower than the 2.40 that recently won Verlander an ERA title, was boosted by a 7-4 game in Cleveland.
Verlander’s competition for the American League Cy Young award was mostly inactive yesterday, as besides the matchup of Justin Masterson’s Cleveland Indians and Ricky Romero’s Toronto Blue Jays, the out-of-town scoreboard was filled with National League contests. Masterson, who, like Verlander, was unfortunate to not be victorious, was impressive: 8 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 SO.
Notable performances also included that of Verlander’s opponent Jon Lester, who got timely ground balls and allowed the Detroit Tigers just enough to grind out a victory: 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 4 SO.
Roy Halladay was nearly perfect in his eight innings for the Philadelphia Phillies against the impotent lineup of his intrastate rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates: 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 SO (on just 92 pitches). Erik Bedard did his best to match for the Pirates, but fell short of his ambitious goal: 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 SO.
The Washington Nationals picked up a late victory at Wrigley Field on the strength of their most acclaimed young pitcher, Stephen Strasburg: 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 SO. Though his effort proved fruitless, Ryan Dempster did all he could to rescue the Chicago Cubs: 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 10 SO.
Johnny Cueto led the Cincinnati Reds over Mark Buehrle and the Miami Marlins, who are now 0-2 on the year after also dropping their stadium opener Wednesday evening. Cueto’s line: 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 SO.
With respect to all of the aforementioned, the best pitching of the day was exhibited by Verlander and Halladay. The Tigers and Phillies are currently not scheduled to play one another, but here’s hoping these two face each other this year anyway—a little over six months from now.