Aces Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer set for first showdown

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As arguably the two best right-handed pitchers of their generation, the relationship between the Texas Rangers' Max Scherzer and the Houston Astros' Justin Verlander has taken many forms.

It also has evolved from some early career friction as young teammates with the Detroit Tigers, mostly thanks to their brief time as teammates with the New York Mets.

"Looking at each other now through a different lens," Verlander said, "it's two guys who, we do go about things differently, but there's more than one way to be successful. I can't speak for Max, but for myself, this time around, I think we had good conversations about the way he sees things, the way I see things and how that can be beneficial."

In Detroit, the two future Hall of Famers were in competition with each other as well as opponents. They've also been on teams that competed against each other for playoff spots and championships. In New York, they were teammates again, but older and wiser.

On Wednesday, the relationship will take a form it never has before: opposing pitchers on the mound.

Hard as it is to believe, Scherzer and Verlander will go head-to-head for the first time in their careers when the Rangers and Astros play at Globe Life Field on Wednesday in the finale of a key three-game series.

"That'll be fun," Scherzer said. "First time facing him. My whole career, I've got to face all the best guys in the world and I've got to play with all the best guys in the world. So I got to play with [Verlander] for a while. Now it's going to be fun to actually go up against him."

The matchup would be compelling in any context, but there are extra layers. When the Mets' season fizzled, New York dealt both pitchers at the trade deadline, sending them to cross-state rivals in the midst of a heated divisional and wild-card playoff race.

While their time together in New York was short, Verlander said it allowed their relationship to grow.

"A lot has been talked about our past," Verlander said. "I think it was a bit blown out of proportion. But you know, there was some tension there. And I think we both decided to make an effort coming in to just move past that."

Scherzer went 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA for the Mets; Verlander was 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA for New York before going back to the Astros, with whom he won a World Series last season.

"It was good to get back with him," Scherzer said. "He's obviously one of the great competitors of our time, so it was good to be back with him and really get a download of how he is as a pitcher, and how he's evolved.

"The game has changed over the seven or eight years we were apart. It was good to get back with him and get inside his pitching mind and how he attacks hitters."

The Rangers and Astros are locked in a three-way battle with the Seattle Mariners for supremacy in the AL West, with those clubs also battling the Toronto Blue Jays in the wild-card chase.

Yet even the pitchers' future Hall of Fame managers can't help but marvel at what they might see Wednesday.

"I've said this many times," Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. "I've got a great seat to watch some really great players play. To see matchups like this, I enjoy it, to see guys who have had tremendous careers like they've had and how competitive they are."

In addition to managing Verlander with the Astros, Houston's Dusty Baker was Scherzer's skipper with the Washington Nationals for two seasons.

"[It's a challenge] to continue to manage and not become a spectator," Baker said. "They're different but they're similar in their determination and their competitiveness."

You can't blame the managers for being a little excited. The two aces rank in the top three of all major career categories among active pitchers. In strikeouts, they are 1-2, with Scherzer topping the list with 3,361 and Verlander just 50 back at 3,311.

A meeting between two pitchers this accomplished is a rare thing, especially in this era of reduced starting pitcher workloads. According to Elias, Verlander and Scherzer's 467 combined career wins will be the most by opposing starters over the past 15 seasons. It will be the first time since CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle squared off in 2015 that there has been a meeting of two starters with at last 200 career wins.

Only 11 pitchers have won at least three Cy Young Awards; two of them will square off on Wednesday.

"I think it's exciting," Verlander said. "It's not too often in baseball anymore you get matchups between two guys who have had the careers like him and I have had. I think it's exciting for baseball."