The two pitchers rank first and second in the American League in ERA, with Verlander’s 1.85 mark slightly better than Cease’s 1.96. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s only the third matchup of starting pitchers with an ERA below 2.00 (with a minimum of 20 starts) since MLB brought down the mound in 1969.
“This is like when I was a kid,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday afternoon. “[Sandy] Koufax and Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale and Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson. …I’m going to have to be careful and make sure I’m not a bystander…because if I was home I’d bring myself a bowl of popcorn and some beer and the only time I’d leave is if there was a commercial or between inputs. That’s a good classic.”
Going into the night, Verlander is a minus-175 favorite to win his third Cy Young Award, while Cease has the second-lowest odds at plus-275, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
As much as players are focused on the game, the prize is also not something they shy away from.
“I try not to obsess over it,” Cease said. “We have a lot of other things going on, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind.
“Depending on the results [of the game], it could change things, but there is still so much season left that I don’t think whoever does better tomorrow will be the winner. It’s definitely important.”
Cease has allowed one or fewer earned runs in 14 consecutive starts, the longest streak since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913. During that time period, he dropped his ERA from 4.26 to 1.96.
Verlander was asked about giving up Cy Young competition after not being selected for this year’s All-Star Game.
“Cy Young is way more important than All-Star, in the scheme of things,” Verlander said. “I know his material is tremendous. He seems to have put it all together this year.”
Cease will try to avenge a loss to the Astros in last year’s division series, won by Houston in four games. Verlander, meanwhile, had his worst performance this season against the White Sox in June. He allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings.
“You learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly,” Verlander said. “I’m not one to think too much, but yeah, I know they had a good game against me there.”
Verlander is trying to become the oldest pitcher to lead the MLB in wins and ERA in a season. No pitcher older than 33 has done that. His opponent on Tuesday was 10 years old when Verlander debuted in 2005.
“In the past, I’d start at 92 mph and finish at 101,” Cease said. “I remember watching a lot when he was a kid and seeing that. The fact that he’s here now and he’s still doing it, it’s pretty weird.”
Cease was asked if he could imagine pitching as high as Verlander at age 39.
“It’s hard to understand,” Cease replied. “[He] Y [Max] Scherzer is showing, if you take care of yourself, then there’s no reason your veil or anything has to sag. Guys like that are making it easier to imagine for sure.”
Both pitchers expressed their excitement about the matchup Tuesday, understanding the attention of the entire baseball world on the game.
“I don’t think you get a lot of moments like this, where you have two guys that have great years like this, to rise to the occasion,” Verlander said. “Things have to line up, so it’s very exciting.”
In Game 1 of the series on Monday night, Yoan Moncada broke the tie with a two-run single in Chicago’s four-run eighth inning, and the White Sox doubled over the Astros 4-2 for their fourth straight win. .
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.