justin verlander max scherzer
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are handing Max Scherzer the ball for their Opening Day matchup against the Miami Marlins. A couple of days later, one of New York’s biggest offseason acquisitions, Justin Verlander, will follow suit.

With these two taking the hill every five days, a unique — and friendly, we’ll assume — competition will officially begin. But don’t worry, it won’t be as painful as the one between Mark Canha and Tim Locastro.

These veteran hurlers enter 2023 with nearly the exact same number of strikeouts. Verlander checks in with 3,198, which ranks 12th all-time. Scherzer is right behind him in 13th place with 3,193. Both also have a strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of at least 9.0 throughout their respective careers.

They could conceivably leapfrog one another in the all-time standings each time their turn in the rotation comes this year. The two dudes they have to pass to get into the top 10 include Phil Niekro and Greg Maddux:

Maddux’s 3,371 strikeouts are just 178 more than Scherzer’s current total. The right-hander collected 173 strikeouts in 145.1 innings last year, while Verlander compiled 185 in 175 frames. So, these two may very well get into the top 10 together before the regular season is finished.

Scherzer gets the first crack at overtaking his new (and old) teammate for the lead. He comes into his Opening Day start with 110 performances of 10-plus strikeouts. That’s tied with Roger Clemens for the third-most in baseball history. If Mad Max reaches double digits on Thursday, he’ll also tie Randy Johnson for the most double-digit strikeout performances on Opening Day (four).

We hear about how friendly competition can form between starting pitchers on the same team as they try to outdo one another. That’ll definitely happen in the Mets’ clubhouse this year, with a little extra sauce for Scherzer and Verlander.

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You can reach Matt Musico at matt.musico@xlmedia.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.