Future Hall of Famers don’t just stumble into World Series collisions like this every day, so even though they won’t match up if pitching schedules hold, the fact that they are sharing this stage at all qualifies as historic. But for two pitchers generally generous with words and insight, neither man seemed to want to talk about that collision much.
“It’s been years,” Verlander said, deftly sidestepping a reporter’s request for funny anecdotes about Scherzer, his teammate with the Detroit Tigers from 2010 to 2014. “I can’t think of any off the top of my head.”
When asked what he learned from Verlander, Scherzer also avoided specifics.
“In Detroit, I learned so much from everybody, and especially from Ver, of just how to go about it, attack the lineup, how you take a ball every fifth day,” Scherzer said. “Just all the little things that go into being a major league pitcher. He was at the forefront of that, and we all developed together, and it was a fun time.”
Scherzer and Verlander will always be linked. Their legacies will almost certainly fall side-by-side in the record books, where they will be remembered as two of the most durable, most decorated and most powerful pitchers of their generation. Verlander signed the biggest extension for a starter in major league history, a five-year pact with the Tigers in 2013 that meant he would get $180 million over seven seasons, including after he was traded to the Astros in 2017. Scherzer signed a seven-year deal worth $210 million with the Nationals in 2015.
They are both right-handers whose early success depended on power fastballs. They have both learned to maneuver with more finesse. They have both proved more durable than most of their peers. And they share five seasons of history in Detroit, where they were part of one of the more vaunted (and, ultimately, most disappointing) rotations of the past decade — a group that lost to San Francisco in the 2012 World Series and never got back.
Seasons such as those might as well be mini-lifetimes, and they can foster lifelong bonds, but Scherzer and Verlander haven’t shared one. They are closer with many other former teammates than they are with each other. They don’t talk much off the field — colleagues but not friends.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities but a lot of differences as well,” Verlander said. “I think on the field, there’s a lot of similarities. Then off the field, there’s a lot of differences in how we go about things as well.”
Verlander has always been more of a red-carpet, celebrity-type. He married model Kate Upton. He is vocal and opinionated on Twitter. He dresses sharply and has shot non-baseball magazine covers. He is a traditional star who embraces the spotlight.
Scherzer, meanwhile, once walked out of the clubhouse in cargo shorts, a T-shirt, flip-flops and a backward hat — with a Cy Young Award he had left in the clubhouse under his arm. He isn’t much of a tweeter. He still talks trash on a group text with his old college buddies. And he never stops talking trash with his teammates — unless, of course, he’s explaining the differences between American and European weather modeling, which he is happy to do as well.
“They’re totally different,” said Nationals right-hander Aníbal Sánchez, who was also part of that Tigers rotation. “Max is more electric. Verlander is more calm. I’m not going to say one is better to the other one, but you can see they’re different on the mound in that way.”
Verlander and Scherzer are both dogged in their preparation, but they differ there, too. Verlander is known as one of baseball’s most relentless creatures of habit, particularly on days he pitches — “all about business,” said Brayan Peña, who caught both Scherzer and Verlander for a year in Detroit.
“Scherzer was a little bit looser. He was kidding around. He was goofing around the clubhouse. But when it was time to get serious, he was 100 percent committed.”
Scherzer is quirky. Verlander is polished. Scherzer grunts and punches his glove and foams at the mouth. Verlander is less demonstrative. Jim Leyland, their old Tigers manager, said he never paid much attention to what effect their differences had on their relationship. Sánchez and Peña said they pushed each other, but then again, everyone pushed everyone else on that team.
“I’m sure they probably fed off each other a little bit,” said Leyland, who did say his pitching coach, Jeff Jones, always felt a rivalry existed between them.
“All of them are full of pride. There’s no question,” Leyland added. “I don’t think you can be that good unless you have it.”
Now, as they prepare to take their turns on the World Series stage, their parallel careers still diverge in one particularly relevant way: Both Scherzer and Verlander started games that the Tigers lost in their unsuccessful World Series appearance in 2012. At the time, on that team, both seemed destined to get at least another chance or two. Verlander did. He won his title with the Astros in 2017. Scherzer, who allowed three runs in 6⅓ innings in a decisive Game 4, never got a second World Series chance. His comes Tuesday.