MLB

Are Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer Friends?

The powerful right arms of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer combined to give the Detroit Tigers the best one-two punch at the top of the pitching rotation from 2010 through 2014. During that period, each won a Cy Young Award and combined for six All-Star appearances. The pair also led the Tigers to the 2014 World Series, where they got swept by the San Francisco Giants in four straight.

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — a pair of first-round picks

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander formed the backbone of a ferocious Detroit Tigers pitching staff, but were they friends when they played together?
Max Scherzer (left) and Justin Verlander. | Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Verlander, one year older than his former Tiger teammate, was drafted second by the Tigers in the 2004 draft. He enjoyed a stellar career at Old Dominion University, where he averaged more than 11 strikeouts per game in his collegiate playing days.

The imposing hard-throwing Verlander spent 13 years with the Tigers with a record of 183-114, leading the league in strikeouts four times. In addition to his one Cy Young Award, he finished in the top-five in voting six times. At the trade deadline in 2017, the Tigers shipped Verlander to the Houston Astros for three prospects.

Scherzer was the 11th pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2006 draft. After two years in the minors, Scherzer made his debut with the D-backs in 2008. In two years as a starter in Arizona, Scherzer went 9-15, but he had 240 strikeouts in 226 innings. Believing Scherzer did not have the stamina to be a long-term starter, the D-backs traded the hard-throwing right-hander to Detroit. He was part of a three-way deal in which Arizona got Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson in return.

Max Scherzer pitched for Detroit for five years before signing with the Washington Nationals as a free agent.

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — friends or foes?

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Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer  were two competitive, overpowering pitchers, and they took the Tigers to their most recent  World Series appearance, but were they friends away from the clubhouse?

Using the 2019 MLB All-Star game as a platform, Verlander decided to sound off about the idea of baseballs being “juiced” for the season. This came as a result of the dramatic increase in the number of home runs in the first half of the season.

“They’ve been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It’s not a coincidence,” Verlander said, according to Bro Bible. “I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced.”

Former teammate Scherzer did not exactly come rushing to Verlander’s side:

“I don’t feel anything different with the ball, but I think we can all see the ball is definitely traveling differently,” said Scherzer. “And the commissioner has even come out and said so. The drag is just different. Yeah, the ball’s different … but you can’t cry about it. You gotta go out there and pitch. I’m not gonna cry about it. Our hitters get to hit with it.”

Are Scherzer and Verlander friends?

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The relationship between the two former Tigers became clearer when the two met in the 2019 World Series as Verlander’s Astros and Scherzer’s Nationals squared off against one another. Speaking before the series about their relationship, the Astros’ ace painted a picture of two men who were colleagues on the field, but with little in common off the diamond.

“I think there’s a lot of similarities but a lot of differences as well,” Verlander said, according to the Washington Post. “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.”

A former Tiger teammate, now part of the Nationals’ rotation alongside Scherzer, summed it up perfectly:

“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 [than] the other one, but you can see they’re different on the mound in that way.”

In 2019, Scherzer took home a World Series ring, with the Nationals winning the World Series in seven games. Two years earlier, Justin Verlander got his ring when the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, also in seven games.