The Seattle Mariners will visit Minute Maid Park on Tuesday afternoon to face the AL West champions, the Houston Astros, in the first game of the AL Division Series.
The Astros earned a first-round bye after finishing the year with an AL-best 106 wins, but the Mariners had to sweat in Canada to beat the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series.
The Mariners are led by 21-year-old rookie Julio Rodriguez, who slashed .284/.345/.509 with 28 home runs and 25 stolen bases in the regular season and is the prime candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award in the American League.
The Astros, on the other hand, have numerous impact performers.
The two-time Cy Young and 2011 MVP had another stellar outing in 2022, with a 1.75 ERA in 175 innings.
He has been dominating in MLB since making his debut in the mid-2000s.
At 39 years old, Verlander has had a long career and has won lots of fans over the years.
J-Rod Is A Big Verlander Fan
One of those fans is the leader of the team that will try to knock Verlander’s Astros from the postseason: Rodriguez.
Earlier in the year, J-Rod homered off Verlander.
The rookie had a clubhouse worker go to the Astros’ dugout and ask Verlander to sign the home run ball for him.
Verlander agreed to do it and wrote: “Hopefully it’s the last one off me”.
Hilarious moment aside, it’s a ball that Rodriguez cherishes.
“Julio was so proud of Verlander signing that home run ball. He kept it in his locker at T-Mobile park,” Mariners insider Ryan Divish tweeted.
Julio was so proud of Verlander signing that home run ball.
He kept it in his locker at T-Mobile park https://t.co/gpwBx4aoL5
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) October 11, 2022
It’s a sign of mutual respect between two fierce rivals.
The best-of-five series will be thrilling.