The biggest reason that no-hitters rarely happen, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander said, is because you don't need to allow a line drive in order to lose one. Any kind of hit will do.
Two outs from his third career no-hitter Friday night, Verlander gave up a softly hit but well-placed ninth-inning single to Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Verlander finished with a one-hitter — the first of his career — and led the Tigers to a 6-0 victory at Comerica Park.
Though he failed to join Jered Weaver of the Angels and Phil Humber of the White Sox (who threw a perfect game) with a no-no in 2012, Verlander still dominated. Touching 100 mph in the late innings and consistently registering heat in the high 90s, Verlander turned in another great performance by the best pitcher around. It just wasn't immortal. And it seemed, when Verlander talked to reporters, that losing the no-no stung a little.
"It doesn't take a hard one, just takes the right placement."
Catcher Alex Avila said that Harrison broke his bat on the single, which barely eluded the Tigers middle infielders. And what was Verlander's reaction for TV cameras when Harrison's hit found the outfield grass?
" 'F*!@.' Is this live? Good, because that's what I said."
Funny guy, the AL Cy Young and MVP. And it might be surprising to learn that, when Harrison reached base, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle — who grew up in Michigan rooting for the Tigers — had mixed feelings.
"I always wanted to be part of Tigers history since I was a little kid. I almost was," Hurdle said. "It would have been bittersweet."
Well, that's ... honest. But when your team has one of the worst offenses in the league, you might as well fail in spectacular and historic fashion. You're kind of at Verlander's mercy, regardless. He's almost always worth the price of admission. Actually, fans usually come out ahead.
Only 27 pitchers have thrown multiple no-no's, and Verlander is the most recent pitcher to join the club. His others came a season ago — May 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays — and in 2007 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He's only 29 years old. He could throw two or three more before he's done. Dang. It could have been three or four more!
Only two pitchers in history have thrown more than three no-no's, by the way: Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. That's a pretty elite neighborhood Verlander's wandering around.
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