The Seattle Mariners travel to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday afternoon to face AL West champions Houston Astros in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
The Astros earned a first-round bye after finishing the year with 106 wins, the best in the AL, but the Mariners had to sweat in Canada to beat the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series.
The Mariners are led by 21-year-old rookie Julio Rodriguez, who cut .284/.345/.509 with 28 home runs and 25 stolen bases in the regular season and is the primary contender to win the Rookie of the Year award in the American League.
The Astros, on the other hand, have plenty of impact performers.
Two players stand out for them: Yordan Alvarez on the batting side and Justin Verlander on the pitching side.
The two-time Cy Young and 2011 MVP had another stellar outing in 2022, with a 1.75 ERA in 175 innings.
He has dominated MLB since his debut in the mid-2000s.
At 39, Verlander has had a long career and won many fans over the years.
J-Rod is a huge Verlander fan
One of those fans is the leader of the team that will try to knock Verlander’s Astros out of the playoffs: Rodriguez.
Earlier in the year, J-Rod shot Verlander.
The rookie had a club employee come to the Astros dugout and have Verlander sign the home run for him.
Verlander agreed to do so and wrote, “I hope this is the last one I have left.”
Hilarious moment aside, it’s a ball that Rodriguez treasures.
“Julio was so proud that Verlander hit that home run. He kept it in his locker at T-Mobile Park,” Mariners insider Ryan Divish tweeted.
Julio was so proud that Verlander hit that home run.
He kept it in his locker at T-Mobile Park https://t.co/gpwBx4aoL5
—Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) October 11, 2022
It is a sign of mutual respect between two fierce rivals.
The best-of-five series will be thrilling.