June 12, 2007
Energy coursed through Justin Verlander's right arm. He knew he needed extra juice on this pitch, the one that could seal his no-hitter.
And then he threw a fastball 101 mph.
Milwaukee Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, the National League's second-leading home run hitter, just stared. Pitchers are supposed to lose velocity as the game progresses, and here was Verlander, the Detroit Tigers' brilliant second-year starter, maintaining and, all of a sudden, exceeding.
Three pitches later came the coup de grace: Hardy lifted a fly ball to right field that Magglio Ordoñez squeezed to seal the 24-year-old Verlander's first no-hitter in a career that could include plenty more.
"I was really pumped up," Verlander told FSN Detroit on the field following the Tigers' 4-0 victory at Detroit's Comerica Park. "I had way too much adrenaline, to be honest. But I was able to hone it and make some pitches."
Right. And Picasso was able to make some paintings.
Though Verlander walked four, his no-hitter was no fluke. Sitting near 100 mph with his fastball all night and mixing in an 86-mph curveball that seems to break into Oakland County, Verlander foiled the Brewers, whose 84 home runs are second most in the major leagues.
Verlander needed 112 pitches to strike out a career-high 12 in the Tigers' first no-hitter since Jack Morris threw one April 7, 1984, and the second this season after the Chicago White Sox's Mark Buerhle tossed his April 18.
And Verlander needed Neifi Perez as well.
Filling in for the injured Carlos Guillen, Perez reached out in the eighth inning to snag a shot up the middle from Gabe Gross and blindly flipped the ball backward to Placido Polanco, who tagged second for the force and fired to first for a double play.
"It was unbelievable all behind me," Verlander said.
It was almost an inevitably at that point, too.
The crowd of 33,555 cheered Verlander as he walked onto the field in the ninth. They watched Craig Counsell flail at a curveball for strikeout No. 11 and Tony Graffanino sit for the fourth time on No. 12. They appreciated Verlander for the manner in which he carries himself: strong, confident and far more poised than most second-year players.
Any worry about the dead arm Verlander experienced during the second half last season seems extinguished. He is a legitimate ace on a staff with another burgeoning one in Jeremy Bonderman and one soon returning in Kenny Rogers. And should the Tigers scrounge out a postseason berth in the difficult American League Central, Verlander likely will take the ball in Game 1.
Because to see him Tuesday night – throwing darts during the game, getting a big kiss from his girlfriend after it and leaving the field with a shaving-cream pie courtesy of Todd Jones – only served as a reminder of how good Verlander can be.