The 40-year-old ran into trouble in the first inning when leadoff hitter Jonathan India came around to score on Jake Fraley’s double to right field. But from that point on, Verlander did not allow a single hit, retiring 18 of the last 19 batters he faced, including the final 10, with the lone baserunner coming on a walk.
“I was still making some mechanical adjustments, trying to get my timing and everything,” said Verlander, who picked up his first victory with the Mets. “I made a few little minor tweaks during the game, especially there in the third inning, that all of a sudden felt right, and I just kind of went from there and kept that feel.”
Verlander was making just his second start of the year after beginning the season on the injured list with a low-grade shoulder strain. He threw only 79 pitches over five innings in his previous start, which made his 104-pitch outing against the Reds all the more impressive.
Through six innings, Verlander threw 91 pitches, but he only needed a quick conversation before going back out for one final frame, in which he struck out two of the three batters. It was also important for him to keep going to protect a bullpen that had thrown 14 innings over the last three games.
“He smelled it the last couple innings,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You could tell he was smelling it.”
Verlander was his quintessential self in the seven-inning outing, his 252nd of at least seven frames in 484 career starts. Fastballs at the top of the zone. Sliders low and away. Curveballs in the dirt. And nine of his 13 batted-ball outs came on balls hit in the air, all but two after the first inning hit under 95 mph.
“When I’m getting weak fly balls, that’s when I’m at my best,” Verlander said. “Swing and miss and weak fly balls is kind of my MO. They did hit a couple balls decent in the air, but I kind of forced the issue a little bit and kind of put pressure on them to put the ball in play. If I can get a quick fly-ball out, then great.”
The right-hander became the first pitcher to beat all 30 teams since former teammate Gerrit Cole achieved the feat on July 10, 2021, when he beat the Astros pitching for the Yankees. Mets teammate Max Scherzer also did so on May 11, 2016, and he said it was a testament to their longevity and playing in both leagues.
Verlander had faced the Reds twice before — each time at Great American Ball Park — and pitched fairly well. But with only three runs of support in both starts, he picked up a no-decision in 2012 and a loss in 2019. On Wednesday, two runs were enough for him to finally pick up that elusive win
“Any time you do something that not many people have done in this game,” Verlander said, “it’s pretty cool.”