You’d think Justin Verlander has played enough baseball in his career to no longer notice or care much whether this or that opposing batter pumps a fist after getting on base, but no: it turns out no amount of experience can toughen up the fragile ego of a true baseball man. Verlander pitched brilliantly in a 10-0 wipeout of the White Sox Friday, but afterwards, what he felt most strongly about was an inconsequential sequence in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Astros were already up 5-0 when White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up Verlander’s no-hitter with a single to left. Though the Astros were firmly in control of the game, it is right and appropriate that the White Sox should continue to try to score and compete, and it is therefore right and appropriate that they should feel, you know, good about getting hits and getting on base. As such, Anderson clapped and pumped a fist when he got to first base. No big deal!
Three pitches later, with Verlander behind White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez 3-0, Anderson took off for second. By an incredibly strict interpretation of baseball’s incredibly stupid and ridiculous unwritten rules, this could be considered a no-no—stealing base late in a blowout is considered bad form. 5-0 in the fifth inning isn’t a close game, but it’s also hardly a blowout! If a team is going to come back from 5-0, probably it is going to require that some guys advance on the bases!
It wound up not being a stolen base. Verlander’s pitch to Narvaez missed the zone, and Narvaez earned the walk. Anderson was pumped, either for having reached second base, or because the rally had been extended, or whatever. Point is, a good thing happened for the White Sox, and a White Sox player showed some excitement, and Verlander took exception. Per the Chicago Tribune:
“He steals on 3-0 in a 5-0 game, that’s probably not great baseball,” Verlander told Astros reporters after the game. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. But he celebrated that, though. And it’s like ‘Hey, I’m not worried about you right now. It’s 5-0, I’m giving a high leg kick, I know you can steal. If I don’t want you to steal, I’ll be a little bit more aware of you. But I’m trying to get this guy out at the plate.’
“Anyway, I walk him, he steals 3-0, kind of celebrates that at second base again. I don’t even know what he was celebrating, he didn’t even get credit for a stolen base, maybe he thought he did, I don’t know.”
He was celebrating his team doing well, you pud! We know that celebrating your team doing well is okay because of what happened literally on the very next out: Anderson and Narvaez tried a double steal, but when Verlander threw to third instead of home and Anderson retreated, the Astros nabbed Narvaez, who’d advanced all the way to second base. How did Verlander, anti-celebrator, handle it? He celebrated, but only to own Anderson, for celebrating.
“I pick you off on an inside move after the way he had kind of been jubilant about some other things, I was just as jubilant about that,” Verlander said. “Very thankful that he gave me an out. That’s what I said, and he didn’t like that comment, but, hey, that’s not my fault. That’s his fault.”
I’m sure it’s totally a coincidence that Verlander’s problem was with the guy who broke up his no-hitter. Baseball is so dumb.