WASHINGTON – Justin Verlander is returning to Nationals Park.
The Houston right-hander grew up in the Richmond area and pitched in college at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
The last start for Verlander came on Tuesday when he allowed just one hit and no runs in eight innings as the Astros won at Minnesota. That puts him on track to start one of the games this weekend at Nationals Park as the Astros are in town for a three-game series starting Friday.
It will be the first trip to Washington for Houston since the 2019 World Series.
Verlander reflected on his Virginia ties during the World Series that year.
Verlander, 39, also has a history with Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who played at Kellam High in Virginia Beach, and was drafted by Washington out of the University of Virginia in 2005.
“It’s pretty cool how well-represented Virginia is as a whole,” Verlander told this reporter during the World Series.
Verlander, who threw his third no-hitter in 2019, shared a light moment with Zimmerman during Game 2 of the World Series in Houston that year. The right-hander tried to field a dribbler off the bat of Zimmermann but fell down while trying to make the play on the infield single.
“Growing up playing against Zimm, he gave me a sly little look the other day after I threw the ball off my shin when he was on at first base, which was pretty funny,” Verlander said a few days later. “I remember going all the way back to my ODU days, him and I played golf together. From then to now, a lot has happened in both of our lives, but pretty cool to have our lives interconnect like that and to end up on this stage.”
Verlander was a first-round draft pick and taken second overall by the Tigers in 2004 out of ODU.
He is 4-2 with an ERA of 1.55 in seven starts this year. In his career, Verlander has won 230 games and lost 130.
The right-hander is the only Virginia native who be selected as one of the 100 all-time best players by author Joe Posnanski, a New York Times bestseller.
The book “The Baseball 100” came out in 2021 and Verlander was listed at No. 75.
“Justin had been a dominant pitcher for Goochland High (in Virginia).
“He averaged exactly two strikeouts per inning – 142 whiffs in 71 innings – and allowed four earned runs all season” as a senior, Posnanski wrote.
In two regular-season starts against the Nationals, Verlander is 2-0 with an ERA of 2.57.
He started in Detroit in 2013 against Washington and also at home with the Tigers in 2010 against the Nationals - so this weekend could be his first-ever regular-season start at Nationals Park.