Verlander sparkles in flirting with no-hitter
Tigers slug three homers to close first half with win over Rangers
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander won't pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, so he delivered his own star performance Sunday. Verlander allowed only one hit in seven innings during the Tigers' 5-0 win over the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park in front of a sold-out crowd.
Mitch Moreland broke up Verlander's no-hit bid with a two-out double in the seventh inning to the right-center gap. It was the second time this season that Verlander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, doing so against the Astros on May 5 before Carlos Pena hit a one-out single.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Moreland said. "I wasn't trying to be the guy. As an opponent, you don't want to be in that situation. Everybody knows what's going on."
Almost everybody. There were a few Tigers that weren't aware of the no-hitter until Moreland's hit.
"I knew Peralta didn't know when the double was hit and the ball came back in and everybody started cheering. [Shortstop Jhonny] Peralta caught the ball and looked up at the board checking the hits," Verlander joked. "That's when I knew he didn't know. I was like 'Come on, Jhonny.'"
As the crowd grew louder with each out, they rewarded Verlander, who has thrown two career no-hitters, with a 24-second standing ovation following Moreland's double. Verlander received another standing ovation at the end of the inning before he went down the dugout steps to shake hands with manager Jim Leyland.
Verlander walked three and struck out three before ultimately losing his no-hit bid. He exited after seven innings with a tight right quad muscle.
"My stuff wasn't great," Verlander said. "My offspeed wasn't very good at all today. My saving grace was that I had good fastball control. I didn't get a lot of strikeouts obviously; a lot of strikeouts come with good offspeed."
Pitching coach Jeff Jones alerted Leyland in the sixth inning that Verlander wasn't pushing off the same way as usual with his right leg.
"It wasn't like a big issue," Verlander said. "It just started to get tight. I noticed after my last start that my legs were a little fatigued and I just think that just carried over with the short rest [because] it's a day game and it's hot. It just started to nag at me a little bit."
While his quad was a concern to Leyland, that wouldn't have ended Verlander's night had the no-hitter been intact.
"I probably would have tried to let him get it," Leyland said. "Unless it was something where it became worse, I would have gave him a shot."
Meanwhile, the Tigers' offense gave Verlander plenty of support through the long ball.
Torii Hunter smashed a hanging curveball on a full count to right field for his seventh home run of the season to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Hunter is hitting .411 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in July.
In the fourth inning, Victor Martinez drilled a 90 mph fastball past the wall in left-center for his eighth home run of the season. Next up was Peralta, who hit his eighth homer of the year to the seats in right field to stretch the lead to 3-0.
"I just swing the bat; I don't try to hit a home run. I try to make good contact with the ball, "Peralta said. "Then the home run just came, so that's good."
Detroit added two more runs in the sixth inning, after Hunter and Miguel Cabrera drew walks to begin the frame. With two outs, Peralta lined a single above second baseman Ian Kinsler's glove to score Hunter. Next, Matt Tuiasosopo hit a single to center to score Cabrera and give the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
With some offense to go along with Verlander, who may not have been at his sharpest, it's still a tough combination for opposing teams.
"He threw more breaking balls today but it was the same Verlander," Adrian Beltre said. "We squared some balls up and hit them right at people but you can't control that. Verlander is still a pretty good pitcher. He was Verlander."