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Tigers' Verlander flirts with no-hitter

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander didn't feel he was pitching well enough to do anything special on Sunday. He still flirted with history in his final start before the All-Star break.

Verlander came within seven outs of his third career no-hitter, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 5-0 victory over the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park.

Mitch Moreland's two-out double into the right-center-field gap spoiled Verlander's bid to become the only active pitcher with three no-hitters. Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit completed the two-hit shutout.

"My stuff wasn't great," said Verlander (10-6), who walked three and struck out three before he was removed after the seventh inning with a tight, right quad muscle. "My off-speed wasn't very good at all today, but my saving grace was I had good fastball control. I didn't get a lot of strikeouts because the strikeouts come with good off-speed pitches."

Verlander, who threw 105 pitches, said the quad bothered him somewhat after his last start and tightened up again during the fifth inning, but he would have continued if the no-hitter was intact. He retired Elvis Andrus on a flyout after Moreland's hit, then called it a day.

"You don't really lose focus," Verlander said. "I've been there before, where I've lost one in the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, the ninth. It's not that you become accustomed to it, but you learn to refocus and just get the next guy."

Verlander tossed no-hitters against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007, and the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7, 2011. Toronto's Mark Buehrle, Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay and Cincinnati Reds' Homer Bailey are the only other active pitchers with two no-hitters.

Verlander gave up a season-high 12 hits and five runs in his previous start against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. He issued walks to Leonys Martin in the first, Moreland in the fifth and Geovany Soto in the sixth, but none reached scoring position.

While Verlander may have been frustrated by his breaking pitches, Moreland said variety was the key to his success.

"There was a lot of off-speed, a lot of mixing it up. He never really had to dial it up," he said. "You know he's got the big (fastball) when he needs it, but you didn't see that from him today. We did put some balls in play, they just didn't find a whole lot of grass."

Moreland hit a breaking pitch in the strike zone to end the suspense. But the Tigers were comfortably ahead by that point.

"Of course, we knew what was going on, and you don't ever want to be that team to get no-hit," Moreland said. "In that situation, we knew what we were capable of and we didn't panic. We weren't even thinking about the no-hitter, we were still trying to find a way to get back in the ballgame."

Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta hit solo home runs for the Tigers, who entered the All-Star break 1 1/2 games in front of second-place Cleveland in the American League Central Division.

"I don't think we've shown our potential yet," Verlander said. "We've been a little inconsistent but you can't get too upset. We're in first place and that's where we want to be. Typically, with the guys we've had here and the veterans we've got, we've been a second-half team."

Martin Perez (3-2) took the loss for the Rangers, who remained in second place behind the Oakland A's in the A.L. West.

Hunter's seventh homer of the season put the Tigers on top in the first. Martinez and Peralta hit back-to-back shots, giving them eight apiece, with two out in the fourth.

Peralta and Matt Tuiasosopo added RBI singles in the sixth to make it 5-0.

NOTES: Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced his pitching rotation for the club's road trip to Kansas City, saying that Anibal Sanchez would start the first game on Friday against the Royals, followed by Verlander and Doug Fister. Since he cannot pitch on one day's rest, Verlander was replaced on the All-Star roster by the Baltimore Orioles' Chris Tillman. ... Detroit RHP Max Scherzer, who had his first loss this season on Saturday, had some swelling and soreness in his left wrist on Sunday but it shouldn't affect his All-Star status. Scherzer, a right-hander, was struck by a Jurickson Profar line drive in the second inning of the 7-1 loss to Texas. He is a prime candidate to start for the American League on Tuesday. ... Derek Holland, Saturday's winning pitcher, will start the Rangers' first game after the All-Star break against Baltimore on Friday. ... Texas manager Ron Washington said he has tentatively decided to replace struggling rookie Justin Grimm with Ross Wolf in the rotation.
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