Verlander moves into top 10 on all-time K's list

May 25th, 2024

OAKLAND -- There's little question that will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., one day. With every milestone, the 41-year-old right-hander only further cements his status as one of the best pitchers baseball has ever seen.

Verlander passed Hall of Famer Greg Maddux for 10th in all-time strikeouts in the second inning of Friday's 6-3 win over the A's at Oakland Coliseum. The Astros' ace bookended both his first and second innings with strikeouts to move up in the record books after entering the game three shy of Maddux's 3,371 for his career.

After striking out a season-high nine batters across six innings and giving up two runs (one earned) on eight hits without issuing a walk, Verlander also earned his 260th career win. That moved him into the top 40 on the all-time list, tied with Hall of Famer Ted Lyons.

"I feel like I should be more excited, but I feel like I'm a little more introspective and reflective," Verlander said. "A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from family. … I don't know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball, if I thought I'd be in the top 10 of anything. This sport's been around for so long."

After Verlander completed the sixth inning, he received handshakes and hugs aplenty upon his return to the visitors' dugout, with the nine strikeouts increasing his career total to 3,377.

"It's a team, but we should all take time to celebrate these players' milestones and achievements, because it's a very difficult game and what he has accomplished has been incredible," Astros manager Joe Espada said. "That was a moment that we all took time to embrace him and congratulate him, because he's had an incredible career."

Verlander passed former rotation mate Max Scherzer (3,367) in his previous start but has a longer way to go to catch "The Big Train," Walter Johnson, at 3,515.

As for all-time wins, Gus Weyhing sits in 39th place with 264.

“He’s just tough," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and executes it really well. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes."

A's third baseman Abraham Toro went down swinging twice against Verlander in his first two trips to the plate, with the second one being fateful No. 3,372. It wasn't the first time Toro, who played for Houston from 2019-21, had a front-row seat to one of Verlander's career accolades.

Most strikeouts all time, per the Elias Sports Bureau:

  1. Nolan Ryan: 5,714
  2. Randy Johnson: 4,875
  3. Roger Clemens: 4,672
  4. Steve Carlton: 4,136
  5. Bert Blyleven: 3,701
  6. Tom Seaver: 3,640
  7. Don Sutton: 3,574
  8. Gaylord Perry: 3,534
  9. Walter Johnson: 3,515
  10. Justin Verlander: 3,377

When Verlander threw his third no-hitter in 2019, Toro helped make it possible by breaking a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the ninth inning of the eventual 2-0 win over the Blue Jays. Toro also fielded the final out, a grounder to third base.

This time, of course, he was on the other side of Verlander's achievement.

"That's one of those baseball moments, just kind of full circle," Verlander said. "But yeah, I really enjoyed playing with Abraham. I hope he doesn't mind."

In his 19 seasons in the big leagues, Verlander has had plenty of big moments against the A's. He's pitched nearly the equivalent of a full season against them, going 17-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 29 starts in the regular season.

The Coliseum was also the backdrop for two of the best postseason performances of Verlander's career. He started Game 5 of the American League Division Series in both 2012 (four-hit shutout) and '13 (eight scoreless innings) when his Tigers eliminated the A's in back-to-back years.

Because the A's announced that this will be their final season at the Coliseum -- the team will play in Sacramento before its planned move to Las Vegas -- Friday might have been Verlander's final start at the ballpark. After this weekend, the Astros will visit Oakland one last time from July 22-24.

"I've had some personally great moments here," Verlander said. "But like, the energy that this place brought for those years where the Tigers and [A's] faced off in the playoffs, that was something I'll always remember here."