Friday, May 18, 2012

Verlander One Hits Pirates

When Justin Verlander no hit the Brewers in 2007, fans were asking when he would pitch his next one.  My response was that he probably would never pitcher another one because no hitters involve a lot of luck.  In fact, only 26 pitchers in MLB history have multiple no hitters and many of the all-time greats have never pitched even one.

When the Tigers ace right hander pitched his second no hitter versus the Blue Jays last year, fans wondered how many no hitters he would pitch in his career.  Again, I cautioned that he likely would never pitch another one.  After all, only five pitchers - Nolan Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4), Bob Feller (3), Larry Corcoran (3) and Cy Young (3) - have pitched three or more no nos.

Tonight, I joined the ranks of people guessing he would pitch at least one more no hitter in his career.  He was so dominant, I was thinking no hitter after just five innings.  By the time the eighth inning came around, I was confidently assuming a no hitter and was wondering how he would finish it off.  After blowing away all three Pirates in the eighth, giving him 12 strikeouts for the night, I was thinking he might end the game with seven straight strikeouts.

Then, the luck factor kicked in.  With one out in the ninth, last year's Cy Young and MVP winner seemed to be toying with little known designated hitter Josh Harrison getting him to swing at devastating curve balls in the dirt.  Would he finish him off with one of his patented late game triple digit heaters?  No, instead it was another 87 MPH breaking pitch.  Harrison just stuck out his bat and poked the ball softly up the middle well beyond the reach of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. It was a clean hit, but it was also a bit of good fortune for Harrison.

Harrison's hit reminded us how difficult it is to pitch a no hitter even for a dominant hurler who has all his pitches working on a given night.  A complete-game one hitter is certainly nothing to sneeze at though.  Verlander walked just two batters and his 12 strikeouts were a season high.   It was a breath-taking performance and hopefully one that will wake up a team that has looked rather lethargic since the second week of the season.

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