Then came June, when Verlander's season began to show signs of doing something historic.
The Tigers right-hander won all six of his starts during the month, allowed only five earned runs in 49 innings (0.92 ERA) and was on his way to a 24-5 finish and becoming the first pitcher in almost 20 years to win his league's Cy Young and MVP Awards.
There is a belief that June is when standings really begin to matter, and the same can be said for individual races. June brought a .486 average for Rod Carew in 1977 and an eye-popping 0.50 ERA for Bob Gibson in 1968.
Those performances were more than flashes in the pan. They were standout months in impressive seasons that earned those players the highest honors in the game.
As the first month of summer begins, here's a look at some of the best June performances by MVP and Cy Young Award winners since 1961.
Bob Gibson, 1968
The original "Year of the Pitcher" belonged to Gibson and Detroit's 31-game winner Denny McLain, who were sensational throughout the season. However, Gibson's June was downright dominant. The Cardinals right-hander completed all six of his starts -- five of which were shutouts -- posted an 0.50 ERA (three runs in 54 innings) and held opposing batters to a .153 average.
Pedro Martinez, 1997
Martinez struck out 72 batters in 50 2/3 innings in June 1997, fanning at least 10 in all six of his starts. He had one subpar outing -- four runs in 6 2/3 innings -- before closing the month by going the distance in three of his last four outings. He also held opposing batters to a .162 average in his last June with Montreal.
Ron Guidry, 1978
Guidry's 18-strikeout, four-hit gem against the Angels on June 17 capped a four-start stretch in which he struck out 50 in 35 1/3 innings with an 0.51 ERA and .156 opponents' average. The Yankees left-hander allowed four runs in six-plus innings in his June finale, finishing the month with a 1.46 ERA and .189 opponents' average.
Justin Verlander, 2011
Verlander's dominant period actually began in his final May start, when he tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Red Sox. But he was even better the next month, tossing at least seven innings in all six of his starts, including two complete games (one shutout). He fanned 54 batters in 49 innings, while the opposition hit just .172.
Roger Clemens, 1986
The Rocket's 20-strikeout game was in April, but June was the most consistent month of his first Cy Young Award-winning season for the Red Sox. Clemens completed eight innings in all six of his starts, including two complete games (one shutout), and went 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA and .176 opponents' average.
Tom Seaver, 1975
Tom Terrific was simply that in June 1975, going 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in six starts for the Mets. He went the distance in three outings -- including two shutouts -- and pitched into the ninth inning in two others. He struck out 49 in 51 2/3 innings with a .158 opponents' average.
Chris Carpenter, 2005
Outside of his lone loss of the month -- three runs in six innings against the Red Sox -- Carpenter was in complete command in June 2005, tossing two shutouts for St. Louis. He went 4-1 with an 0.90 ERA and held batters to a .182 average.
Sammy Sosa, 1998
Sosa had 13 home runs at the beginning of June, trailing Mark McGwire by 14 round-trippers. Then Slammin' Sammy went deep a Major League-record 20 times -- a record for any month -- signaling the beginning of the great home run race. Sosa homered in more than half of the Cubs' games and had four multi-homer games. He drove in 40 runs and slugged .842.
Rod Carew, 1977
You have to be consistent to hit .388 for an entire season, but Carew's final batting average was no doubt helped by his .486 mark in June. The Twins first baseman recorded a hit in all but two of his 28 games and got on base at a .538 clip. He also had eight triples, seven doubles and 30 RBIs.
Jeff Bagwell, 1994
It's crazy to think what kind of numbers Bagwell would have put up for the Astros with a full season in 1994. His best month came in June, when he hit 13 home runs with 11 doubles and produced a .394/.455/.899 slash line. He was even better in July (.409/.509/.875) and had similar numbers through nine games in August before the players' strike ended the season.
Josh Hamilton, 2010
Hamilton's performance in June and July was the main reason he won the 2010 AL MVP Award despite missing 20 games at the end of the season because of a rib cage injury. Hamilton produced a .454/.482/.815 slash line with nine home runs, 10 doubles and 31 RBIs in June. The Rangers star also had a 23-game hitting streak and went hitless just once during the month.
Jason Giambi, 2000
The A's first baseman posted a .450/.604/.775 slash line with five home runs and 11 doubles, also drawing 30 walks compared to only 14 strikeouts.
Larry Walker, 1997
Walker's hot start in 1997 -- a .456 April batting average -- never fizzled. The Rockies outfielder produced a .408/.517/.796 slash line with 10 home runs and eight doubles in June.
Albert Pujols, 2009
Pujols' performance in June 2009 was the the most impressive since Sosa's in terms of power. The former Cardinals first baseman hit 14 home runs, 10 doubles and drove in 35 runs that month. He also produced a .320/.427/.856 slash line en route to his winning his third career MVP Award.