It means plenty for Verlander and Sizemore alike, two college kids from Virginia with two different paths to the Majors.
Not since Gooden had anyone won at least 17 games in four of his first five big league seasons. It's a rare enough feat that among active pitchers, Tim Hudson was the only one with four 15-win seasons in his first five seasons until Verlander got there earlier this month. Neither Roger Clemens nor CC Sabathia, Barry Zito nor Roy Halladay came close.
Verlander won 35 games in his first two seasons, won American League Rookie of the Year honors and an AL pennant in the same season, shared the Major League lead in losses in 2008, then rattled off what is now a 36-win total over his last two seasons. Some, like his 2007 no-hitter, have been all him. Others, like his 125-pitch marathon over five innings for his first win of this season back in April at Anaheim, had a lot to do with his team.
This was a bit of both. Verlander cruised with an early lead by retiring 13 of his first 15 batters, gave up three straight hits in a White Sox rally that tied the game in the fifth, then retired the last 13 batters he faced from there to keep the game tied for Sizemore to power them ahead in the eighth inning.
It wasn't just 13 consecutive outs for Verlander to close it. None of the last 10 batters got the ball out of the infield after A.J. Pierzynski flied out to the right-field warning track in the sixth. Only one of those last 13 reached a three-ball count; five others were retired on the first or second pitch.
"I kind of fell out of it that one inning," Verlander said. "I had a pretty good groove going early. I was throwing with a little bit more effort than I wanted early in the game. My emotions got the better of me a little bit. Then after that one inning when I gave up three, I went out there and tried to settle myself down, pitch with a little bit more control, get some early action and hopefully stay in the game long enough to let our guys battle back and keep it a tight game. What a job they did."
Verlander needed 123 pitches for that golden 17th win, two fewer than he needed to go five innings for his first victory of the year. In so doing, he earned his fifth win in as many starts over the last two years against the White Sox, the team that beat him nine times in his first three seasons. He won at U.S. Cellular Field for the second time in 10 career outings.
"He's one of the best righties out there," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The game was 3-0 and I was wondering how we'd come back, and we did. I think he had only one bad inning. He threw the ball very well. He threw a lot of offspeed pitches today and only threw the fastball when he had to."
Verlander threw three fastballs at 100-101 mph to strike out Paul Konerko after Alex Rios' game-tying double and shut down the White Sox from there. Three straight two-out hits from three Tigers rookies created the rally that pulled Detroit ahead for good.
All six Tigers runs came with two outs, but the last three were the sweetest. Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos combined to retire six straight hitters, enough that Guillen kept the right-handed Santos in to face left-handed hitter Alex Avila rather than go to lefty Chris
After Avila hit a groundball single through the right side, Gerald Laird pinch-ran with a green light to steal, which he did on Santos' second pitch. Once he took off, Austin Jackson -- who bats 95 points higher against right-handers than lefties -- followed with a single through the left side, allowing Laird to reach third easily.
That put runners at the corners for Rhymes, who already had a two-out hit earlier to double in Brandon Inge in the fourth. Once Sale entered to face Rhymes, manager Jim Leyland countered with Sizemore, Detroit's Opening Day second baseman who went to Toledo in mid-May and became almost an afterthought once Carlos Guillen and Will Rhymes took over at second.
Once Sale fell behind in the count, Sizemore's thought was to sit on Sale's nasty fastball.
"I got ready for the fastball, and that's what he gave me," Sizemore said. "He's got good stuff. It felt great to get a hit off of him."
It was a no-doubt shot that traveled an estimated 413 feet to left field.
"You can't talk enough about Sizemore," Verlander said. "That was a storybook [shot]. I don't think he'll ever forget that home run. That was big for him and our team."
It was also pretty nice for Verlander.