Last Updated: May 07. 2011 11:32PMTigers 9, Blue Jays 0Tigers ace Verlander throws second no-hitter, just misses perfect game
Tom Gage / / The Detroit News
Toronto -- Sometimes, it's a play. Sometimes just a pitch.
Justin Verlander threw the second no-hitter of his career on Saturday. But for a few inches off outside corner, it would have been a perfect game.
In Armando Galarraga's case, it one memorable play that was the difference. For Verlander, it was just one pitch.
Make no mistake, it was an absolutely outstanding accomplishment to no-hit the Blue Jays in Saturday's 9-0 victory at the Rogers Centre.
In doing so, Verlander became just the second pitcher ever to throw two no-hitters as a Tiger -- Virgil Trucks being the first.
Both of Trucks' no-hitters occurred in 1952.
"A lot of guys throw one," said Verlander's teammate Brad Penny. "Not many guys throw more than one. That's special company there."
Manager Jim Leyland wouldn't be shocked if Verlander someday threw another. That's how consistently good his stuff is time after time.
"This day is one for Justin and the entire team to enjoy," said Leyland. "He always has 'A' stuff, though. It doesn't surprise me he has two (no-hitters) now. It wouldn't surprise me if he gets another one at some point in his career."
Verlander's first no-hitter was thrown on June 12, 2007 at Comerica Park against the Milwaukee Brewers. With this one, though, he became the first Tiger since Jack Morris on April 7, 1984 to throw a no-hitter on the road.
"I felt fantastic," Verlander said. "I really made a conscious effort to slow myself down to establish a rhythm. But when I needed extra juice, I had it."
He flirted with a perfect game, however, until there was one out in the eighth.
With rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia battling him on every pitch of what turned out to be a classic 12-pitch at-bat, Verlander threw a fastball just outside on a full count to walk him.
He didn't get cheated on the call by plate umpire Jerry Meals. The pitch was definitely off the corner - but not by much.
Maybe not even as much as Meals estimated after the game.
"Four to six inches," he said. "Definitely a ball."
No one argued, no one could -- even though Verlander good-naturedly thought later "c'mon, you could have given me that call."
And with it went the chance for the Tigers' first perfect game in Game #17,209 of the franchise.
"He called it a ball and it was," said Verlander. "Right out of my fingertips, I knew it was a hair outside. Time to focus on the no-hitter, I guess."
Catcher Alex Avila said the pitch was close enough to swing at -- and was stunned that Arencibia didn't go after it.
"I took it right away and felt it was a ball," Arencibia said. "But if they had called it differently, I don't know how much argument they would have gotten out of me."
Even so with many Tigers' fans on hand, the Rogers Centre crowd groaned, but there was a still a no-hitter at stake for Verlander, who recovered by getting Edwin Encarnacion to hit into an eighth-inning-ending double play.
In a sense, Verlander had looked forward to this start as soon as his last one was over.
After his last start against the Yankees, Verlander hadn't predicted he'd be sharp this time out but he acknowledged the chance of it -- despite the fact the Tigers lost that game 5-3 at Comerica Park.
"It's the best I've felt all year, but I was elevating the ball" he said at the time. "Hopefully I can carry this same stuff forward with better control."
He did just that. He carried it forward.
"I was able to locate my fastball really well," Verlander said.
Knowing he was working on a masterpiece, though, Verlander stepped it up in the seventh.
With two outs, he went to his first three-ball count -- falling behind 3-1 to Juan Rivera, who fouled off a 99 mile an hour fastball on 3-1, and fouled off a 100 mile an hour heater on 3-2 - then hit a bouncer back to the mound when Verlander came in at 101.
"Pretty ridiculous stuff," Arencibia would describe it later.
A couple of good plays were needed to preserve the gem, of course.
The best was the one that Verlander made himself in the fifth. With two outs, Encarnacion hit a shot off his right forearm, but Verlander chased it down and threw a bullet to first.
The throw bounced once on its way, however, before disappearing into the lower abdominal grasp of Miguel Cabrera at first.
"I took one for the team," Cabrera said after the game.
Actually, so did Verlander. He needed treatment between innings after the grounder that hit him - with the trainers pouring a cold can of Red Bull over his arm instead of icing it because icing might have caused it to tighten.
"It swelled up pretty good, I felt like a boxer between innings. I've got a pretty decent lump there, but they kept the swelling down."
Of his throw to first, Verlander said, "I knew it was going to be a side-spin ball that would be very difficult to handle. I threw it from down low, but what a job Miguel did.
"I don't know where it hit him, but I have an idea."
Jhonny Peralta in the seventh also made a fine short-hop grab of Yunel Escobar's bid for a leadoff single in the seventh.
"Some of the way I didn't even see the ball because of the shadows," said Peralta, "but I saw it go into my glove."
The Tigers took care of the offensive end of the game with three runs in each of the third and fourth against starter Ricky Romero (2-4).
Taking advantage of Romero's control meltdown, the Tigers scored on a wild pitch, a walk and a grounder to short in the third.
They went the long-ball route in the fourth, getting a solo home run from Peralta and a two-run shot, his sixth, from Avila.
All that remained was for whatever great that was in the works to unfold: Perfect game or no-hitter.
For 22 outs, it looked like it might be the former.
But a second no-hitter is a great feat in its own rightPitchers with multiple no-hittersSeven
Johnny Vander Meerx-
Don Wilsonx-activeTigers no-hitters
May 7, 2011: Justin Verlander at Toronto, 9-0
June 12, 200: Justin Verlander vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 4-0
April 7, 1984: Jack Morris at Chicago, 4-0
July 20, 1958: Jim Bunning at Boston, 3-0
Aug. 25, 1952: Virgil Trucks at New York, 1-0
May 15 1952: Virgil Trucks vs. Washington, 1-0
July 4, 1912: George Mullin vs. St. Louis, 7-0No-hitters vs. Blue Jays
May 7, 2011: Justin Verlander, Detroit, 9-0
May 1, 1991: Nolan Ryan, Texas, 3-0
June 29, 1990: Dave Stewart, Oakland, 5-0
May 15, 1981: Len Barker, Cleveland, 3-0** perfect gameFrom The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110507/SPORTS0104/105070398/Tigers-ace-Verlander-throws-second-no-hitter--just-misses-perfect-game#ixzz1LjPRz0jK