Detroit trying to move past breakup with Justin Verlander

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander reaches for a new baseball after giving up a home run to Detroit Tigers’ Niko Goodrum during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 15, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Sometimes it hurts more when they say they still think about you.

Detroiters knew this was going to be a hard weekend. Seeing your ex for the first time after the breakup is never easy. And it was made all the harder when Detroit’s ex-boyfriend, Justin Verlander, said he never wanted to hurt us when we broke up last August.

To top it off, it had to happen at his new place — in Houston — where he’s now living with … them. With … the Astros. Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. It still doesn’t sound right.

“Really,” Verlander told reporters Saturday, “I was concerned with how the fans would react.”

He was talking about waiving his no-trade clause at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 31. We all knew the breakup — I mean, the trade — was coming. It seemed inevitable as the Tigers began their rebuild last year.

But at least for a while it seemed like there was hope. That maybe we could make it work, that he wouldn’t have to leave. Yeah, it would be hard. But don’t all relationships worth saving take some effort? Hey, we’re Detroiters. When have we ever been afraid of a little work?

Of course, it didn’t work out. After spending 13 wonderful seasons together, it was over. So many beautiful memories. The two no-hitters, the AL MVP, the Cy Young, seven All-Star games.

Remember those amazing trips? When he took us on to the 2006 World Series in St. Louis. Then again to the 2012 World Series in San Francisco. Sure, he never got us that ring we always expected. But maybe we were a little at fault, too, for not giving him what he needed.

“I wanted to leave on a good note and not leave a sour taste in their mouth,” Verlander said of Tigers fans, “and I think everybody understood that the organization was going in a different direction and I desperately wanted to win a World Series and the opportunity wasn’t going to be in Detroit at that juncture.”

So, basically, it was him and not us?

It didn’t help that almost immediately after we broke up, he got them a ring. Just like that. It didn’t matter that we had put in our time. That we had been patient. Nope. He settled in right away. Made it look easy, in fact. We heard the screen door slam and watched him walk away and take another major step toward the Hall of Fame.

Sunday was even harder. This probably doesn’t make us look great, but didn’t we secretly hope he would be struggling this year? Maybe even regret his decision to leave? Even just us a little?

But damn, he still looks good. He entered the game with a 9-4 record, a 2.05 ERA and 160 strikeouts.

Us? We’ve been a mess since he left. Kind of let ourselves go, in fact. No power, can’t pitch and can’t field. Six straight losses before Sunday. Someone get the pint of ice cream out of the freezer and find us a large spoon.

Then, something happened Sunday. Something inexplicable. Something that brings you a sliver of hope, that edifies your soul if even for just a moment.

The Tigers hit four home runs off Verlander. Hung the L on him. Suddenly, he hasn’t won a game in more than a month. Suddenly, the Tigers showed a glimpse of their potential. Suddenly, Detroit doesn’t look so pathetic.

These days it’s cordial between Detroit and Verlander. We’re trying to be friends. Verlander had dinner with ex-teammates Thursday and said he still keeps tabs on the Tigers.

“I mean, look, Detroit is always going to have a place in my heart and I’m always rooting for that organization,” he said, “so I definitely keep following them to see what’s going on.”

Same here, Justin. It’s still going to hurt for a while. But same here.

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