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Tigers spoil Justin Verlander’s Mets debut with back-to-back homers in the first

Riley Greene and Javier Baez took Verlander deep in his first start in a New York uniform — and his first in Detroit since 2019.

Justin Verlander of the New York Mets works up a new baseball after giving up a home run to Javier Baez of the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on May 4, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

All eyes were on Detroit on Thursday afternoon, as the New York Mets and their fans finally got to enjoy a day they’d long awaited: Justin Verlander’s debut in orange and blue. After missing the first month of the season with a shoulder strain, the three-time Cy Young winner had made his rehab start and looked ready to ride in and save the Mets’ beleaguered rotation, exactly the balm the team needed as it floundered around .500 amid injuries and a slumping offense. Surely, this would be just the thing to turn New York’s season around.

Except, well, the home team had something to say about that:

Just nine pitches into his 2023 season, Verlander had given up back-to-back homers to Riley Greene and Javier Baez, and the Mets found themselves in a 2-0 hole. It was a hole they were unable to climb out of, as Verlander eventually righted the ship — allowing just those two runs on five hits and walk with five strikeouts over five innings of work — but New York’s anemic offense was blanked by Eduardo Rodriguez in a 2-0 loss.

That’s a clean sweep for the Tigers (bearing down on second place in the AL Central!) and nine losses in the last 11 for the Mets, who are now six back of the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in the NL East. Things will almost certainly turn around from here; Max Scherzer will figure things out, Verlander looked like his old self after the first inning on Thursday, Kodai Senga’s close to harnessing his electric stuff, Carlos Carrasco and Jose Quintana will get healthy, and on and on.

Still, the Braves are looking like a Death Star right now, and that’s a lot of ifs — Scherzer and Verlander’s age, Quintana and Carrasco’s health and ineffectiveness, whether Francisco Lindor can be a true impact bat behind Pete Alonso — for a team with a sky-high payroll and clear World Series or bust expectations.