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Former teammates Verlander, Scherzer set to face each other Wednesday

Justin Verlander Houston Astros Justin Verlander - The Canadian Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Three-time Cy Young Award winners Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had some healing time for their relationship in their second stint as teammates.

Now they are set to pitch against each other for the the first time in their long careers in the finale of an important series between Texas and Houston after both were traded by the New York Mets.

Verlander says he saw the Wednesday night showdown coming when he returned to the Astros two days after Scherzer was sent to the Rangers with the disappointing Mets fading from contention in July.

Much older and wiser than those Detroit teammates from 2010-14, the right-handers will share the mound at the home the Rangers with a mutual admiration that maybe wasn't there before they reunited in New York.

“I think it was a bit blown out of proportion, but there was some tension there,” Verlander said about the Detroit days. “I think we both decided to make an effort coming in to rekindle and to just move past that. Nobody needed to say anything. It was just, ‘All right, we’re better than that. Let’s make an effort to be friends.’ And we did. We really connected over a lot of things.”

Scherzer was 25 when he was traded to the Tigers in 2009, by which time Verlander had established himself as a budding star after being the second overall pick in the draft by Detroit five years earlier.

Those were high — but disappointing times — for the Tigers, with four trips to the postseason in the five seasons Scherzer and Verlander were together. Detroit lost to the Rangers in the 2011 AL championship series and to San Francisco in the 2012 World Series.

“It’s just two highly competitive guys that were trying to find their foothold in the game who were very competitive and had very strong opinions about the way they went about their business,” Verlander said. “I think looking at each other now through a different lens, it’s two guys who we do go about things differently, but there’s more than one way to be successful.”

Verlander won his first AL Cy Young and also was AL MVP when they were together in Detroit in 2011, two years before Scherzer matched his teammate. Verlander's other two Cy Youngs came with Houston (2019, 2022), while Scherzer won two NL Cy Young Awards in Washington (2016-17).

Now 40, Verlander takes the mound as a nine-time All-Star in his 18th season. The 39-year-old Scherzer is in his 16th season with eight trips to the All-Star game, including their year together with Detroit in 2013.

As disappointing as this season — and their endings — were with the Mets, both can see a silver lining.

“It was good to get back with him,” said Scherzer, who was openly critical of the Mets after the trade. “He’s obviously one of the great competitors of our time. And really get a download of how he is as a pitcher, how he’s evolved. Because the game has changed over the seven, eight years that we were apart.”

The 14th meeting of pitchers with at least three Cy Youngs apiece also featured the two active leaders in strikeouts (Verlander has 3,361 to Scherzer's 3,311) and two of the top three on the active wins list. Verlander leads with 254, and Scherzer is third at 213.

“It’s easy to become a spectator when there’s big games and matchups like that,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I just got to do my thing, know when to take him out and when to make a change.”

This is the third such meeting for Scherzer, who twice faced Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw after both had won three Cy Youngs.

Both are World Series winners — Verlander twice with Houston in 2017 and last season and Scherzer with the Nationals when they beat the Astros in 2019.

Both are trying to get their teams to the playoffs, with the Texas rivals holding two of the three AL wild-card berths going into Tuesday's games.

And both have made six starts since their respective trades. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 2.21 ERA, the second-lowest for the first six starts in franchise history behind Fergie Jenkins in 1974. Verlander is 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

“Not too often in baseball anymore do you get matchups between two guys that have had the careers that he and I have had,” Verlander said. “I think it’s exciting for baseball. It’s exciting for us and I’m sure it’s exciting for him. I hope.”