Justin Verlander's injury hiccup could help Mariners slide ahead of Astros early

With Justin Verlander going on the IL to open the season, it could push open the door for the Mariners to jump ahead in the AL West to start the year
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners / Stephen Brashear/GettyImages

The Mariners nearly made it back to the playoffs in 2023, ending up a game short of the playoffs. They had a chance all the way until game 161, and the loss that day to the Rangers ended up being the end to their season. It's easy to say that a bad stretch of the season will be made up because of the 162-game season, but an ending like that goes to show you that every game counts. It's why Justin Verlander starting the season on the IL could help the Mariners early in the year.

The Astros announced that their future HOF'er was going to start the season on the IL, even though he had been throwing this offseason. He wasn't getting up to speed as he hoped he would, and the team wanted to be cautious and "smart" about getting him on the field, leading to the IL designation to start the year.

Justin Verlander being injured opens the door for the Mariners

The Mariners actually played the Astros well in 2023, going 9-4 against them. They only saw Verlander once since he was a Met for the first half of the season, but he has a fantastic track record against the Mariners. He threw 8 innings of one-run ball against them last year, and had a 2.34 ERA in 2022 through 42 1/3 IP against the M's despite the game where they scored six in six innings against him.

The Mariners won't see the Astros until May 3rd in Houston, so the "hope" for Mariners fans is that he won't be back by then. With his age, the innings on his arm, and a likely internal hope that they are saving Verlander for another playoff push, it's quite possible that they give him a long warmup period before bringing him back, and that he won't be ready for that series.

To run it back to the beginning of the article, every game matters even in a season with 162 of them. With the Astros leader, even if he isn't their best pitcher anymore with Framber Valdez looking like a complete stud, it could start the Astros off on a rough patch in April. JP France is injured, as are Lance McCullers and Cristian Javier. The 'Stros still have arms, but they're walking a thin line to start the season.

Verlander is 41 this season, so the end may be near. However, I can't count out the Hall of Famer, especially when you remember that Houston has done this before with an aging Multi-Cy Young winner, even if Verlander is a much less eccentric individual. That seems like a nice way to put it. Plus, I don't think he has ever thrown a baseball bat at anyone during a game.

The Mariners have a chance to jump out in front of the Astros to start the season with Verlander out. Now, we just need them to take advantage of the situation that they were given and get off on the right foot. Sitting 12-16 at the end of April, like last year, just isn't going to cut it in 2024. Here's to hoping that they can flip that and be a handful of games above .500 and start the year off on a good note.