Curve helps Verlander nearly make history

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
12:33
AM ET

US Presswire
Tigers P Justin Verlander came within two outs of his third career no-hitter Friday against the Pirates.
For 8 1/3 innings on Friday night, Detroit Tigers P Justin Verlander was unhittable, thanks largely to a nasty curveball that the Pittsburgh Pirates could not touch. Just when he was on the brink of joining rarified air, though, it was a breaking ball that got in the way of history.

Verlander lost a no-hit bid on a Josh Harrison single with one out in the ninth when Harrison smacked a hanging slider into center field. Prior to Harrison’s hit, which came after he trailed 0-2 in the count, hitters were 3-36 (.083) with 21 strikeouts this season after being down 0-2 to Verlander. It was the only hit he allowed.

As has become the norm with the towering righty, Verlander’s velocity increased as the game went on. Interestingly enough, his fastball averaged just 91.4 mph in the first three innings, the lowest it has been through three in the last four seasons. From the seventh on, not one fastball was below 97 on the gun.

While his heater was strong, it was Verlander’s curve that baffled Pittsburgh. He threw it in the zone early in the count, then got batters to chase by tossing six of the eight curveballs he threw with two strikes out of the zone. Four of his punchouts were via the curve.

Verlander, who threw 109 pitches and walked two batters in the Tigers’ 6-0 victory, struck out 12 Pirates, tying for the second-most strikeouts in his career. With this effort, he joins an exclusive club of pitchers to throw shutouts allowing one hit or fewer with at least 12 strikeouts in interleague play. The only other time it was done? In 2007, by Justin Verlander.

That performance came during his no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. Had Verlander finished the job Friday, he would have become the first player with multiple no-hitters in interleague play.

According to Elias, Verlander is only the second Tigers pitcher to toss a shutout in which he gave up no more than one hit and fanned 12 or more hitters. Hall of Famer Jim Bunning did it for Detroit against the Boston Red Sox in 1958.

History was right at Verlander's fingertips. He was two outs away from becoming just the sixth pitcher in major league history to throw at least three no-hitters, joining a club that includes Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Larry Corcoran and Cy Young. He also would have become the Tigers’ all-time leader in no-hitters, passing Virgil Trucks.

Given the fact that he has taken five no-hit bids into the eighth inning, it would come as a surprise to no one to one day see Verlander’s name on that list.

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