There’s something very special about what happened in Toronto on Saturday. Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter, the second of his career and just the seventh ever by a Tiger pitcher. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it, considering that the Tigers have been around for 110 years and have played at least 154 games in each of those seasons. That’s about 17 thousand games if my math is correct.
Verlander came oh so close to a perfect game, allowing just one walk in the 8th inning. And the runner was erased on a double play, meaning the Tiger ace faced the minimum of 27 batters. He threw 108 pitches, a big improvement over his last outing, where he threw 127 pitches in 6 innings. He only struck out four batters, compared to 12 in his previous no hitter against Milwaukee in 2007. But Verlander is learning to be more efficient and realizing that he doesn’t have to strike out every batter he faces to get an out.
Of course, you can’t talk about an almost perfect game involving a Tiger pitcher without thinking of last year’s brilliant performance by Armando Galarraga, who was cheated out of his gem by a blown call at first on what should have been the final out of the game. And Tiger fans may remember Milt Wilcox’s April 1983 game against the Chicago White Sox where he retired the first 26 batters before Jerry Hairston, Senior got a hit to spoil the perfect game in the 9th inning.
The strangest no hitter I can remember happened in 1967 when the Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles two to one even though the Tigers got NO hits. Steve Barber walked ten batters in the game, along with a wild pitch. The Tigers scored the winning run in the 9th on an error.
Verlander joins Virgil Trucks as the only Tiger pitchers to have two no hitters. Trucks threw both his no-nos in the 1952 season. Despite that performance, Trucks finished that season with a record of 5 wins and 19 losses! That should tell you something about how bad the Tigers were that year. They finished the ’52 season with a record of 50 and 104, the worst in team history until the awful 2003 season, when the Tigers lost an American league record 119 games.
Verlander’s no hitter brings the Tigers closer to the .500 mark in what has been a real up and down year so far. After losing seven in a row, the Tigers came back to life against the slumping Yankees, taking three out of four games. As Manager Jim Leyland said, it’s no big mystery. The Tigers are getting good starting pitching, and the top of the lineup has started to hit, as Austin Jackson seems to finally be coming out of his season long slump, and 2nd basemen Scott Sizemore has provided a real spark since being recalled from Toledo. But don’t forget, there’s still four and a half months to go on the season.