It wasn’t his prettiest outing, but Tigers ace Justin Verlander became the first major league pitcher of the 2011 baseball season to reach the 20-win plateau in Saturday afternoon’s 6-4 victory over the Twins.
Verlander yielded eight hits and four runs, and at one point allowed back-to-back homers to light-hitting Twins reserves Luke Hughes and Jason Repko, but he eventually settled in. The 28-year-old right-hander finished the start with six strikeouts and three walks, throwing 76 of his 120 pitches for strikes.
Verlander is the first pitcher to win 20 games before the end of August since Curt Schilling accomplished the feat for the Diamondbacks in 2002. Verlander is now sporting a 20-5 record, 2.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP through 29 starts this season. He also has 218 strikeouts in 215 2/3 innings, and has walked just 48 batters.
While Angels ace Jered Weaver deserves consideration, Verlander is the clear favorite for the American League Cy Young Award with around five weeks to go. Verlander could also draw some MVP consideration.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.