Saturday, May 07, 2011

Another No Hitter for Verlander

There have been only eight no hitters in the history of the Tigers and Justin Verlander has two of them.  Today, he pitched to the minimum 27 batters in no hitting the Blue Jays 9-0.  He also no hit the Brewers on June 12, 2007. 

Today's no hitter was almost a let down as Verlander was five outs away from a perfect game.   Justin retired the first 22 batters and then had two strikes on right-handed hitting JP Arencibia.  The young Jays catcher then fouled off several pitchers in forcing a 12-pitch walk.  Ball four was just barely off the plate, but not controversial.  It was a tremendous at bat for Arencibia.  Verlander quickly got third baseman Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a double play and the no hitter was in tact.  That would be the only Blue Jay base runner of the game.

The closest Toronto got to a hit was on the final out of the fifth inning.  Encarnacion hit a hard grounder back to the box which bounced off Verlander's arm.  The Tigers pitcher pounced on it and fired to first on one hop.  Miguel Cabrera held onto to the throw and it was 15 up 15 down at that point.

There were not a lot of close calls today because Verlander had everything working including his fastball which ran as high as 101 MHP late in the game.  Verlander had just four strikeouts and was very efficient  completing the game with 108 pitches. The final out came when Blue Jays speedster Rajai Davis chased an outside slider for strike three. 

Given his lack of strikeouts, one might wonder whether Verlander took Jack Morris's recent criticism to heart.  Morris had recently commented that Verlander was trying too hard to strike out too many batters and was throwing too many pitches.  I don't think Verlander had that in mind though.  I just think he had great stuff today and the Jays happened to hit into weak outs rather than striking out.  He was in such command today that you could sense him being aware of the perfect game as early as the fifth inning. 

Not to be forgotten is the Tigers offense today which gave Justin some rare run support.  They clubbed Toronto starter Ricky Romero for three runs in both the third and fourth innings to give their pitcher a cushion.  They added another in the fifth and two more in the ninth.  Jhonny Peralta hit a solo homer and Alex Avila a two-run shot.  Austin Jackson contributed three hits and is now batting .333 in his last eight games.

But today belonged to Justin Verlander who made history by becoming only the second Tiger with two no hitters.  The other one was Virgil Trucks, who recorded two in 1952.  It's been an up and down start to the 2011 Tigers season but today Verlander gave fans a memory that will last a lifetime.

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