By NOAH TRISTER/AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) – Justin Verlander held Texas hitless until the seventh inning, and the Detroit Tigers backed their ace with three home runs in a 5-0 victory over the Rangers on Sunday.
Mitch Moreland’s two-out double to right-center broke up Verlander’s bid for his third career no-hitter. Verlander (10-6) left the game after the seventh with a tight right quad muscle, having allowed just that one hit and three walks.
Verlander’s final start before the All-Star break was an encouraging one for the former American League MVP. He wasn’t overpowering, striking out only three.
Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta hit solo homers off Texas starter Martin Perez (3-2). The Rangers finished with two hits.
Verlander was picked for the American League All-Star team but was replaced for Tuesday night’s event. Under baseball’s labor contract, pitchers who start on the Sunday before the All-Star game may opt not to participate.
Although he also took a no-hitter into the seventh at Houston on May 5, Verlander’s overpowering aura hasn’t been quite the same this season. Sunday’s gem lowered his ERA to 3.50.
Verlander no-hit Toronto on May 7, 2011. His other no-hitter came June 12, 2007, against Milwaukee.
Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Cy Young are among the five pitchers with at least three no-hitters. Larry Corcoran, an ambidextrous pitcher who won 177 games from 1880-85, is the other one.
Verlander took the mound about 12 hours after San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum finished a no-hitter of his own at San Diego.
The drama began building in Detroit the fourth when Tigers left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo got turned around on a line drive by Nelson Cruz. He was able to recover and reach up for the catch.
In the fifth, Hunter ran to the corner in right to catch a flyball by Elvis Andrus. Jurickson Profar, the next hitter, sent a smash toward Martinez, who was playing first base because Prince Fielder was Detroit’s designated hitter Sunday. Martinez made the stop and took the ball to first himself for the third out of the inning.
Hunter went deep in the first to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead, and Martinez and Peralta hit back-to-back homers in the fourth.
Detroit added two runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Peralta and Tuiasosopo, although that rally made Verlander wait a while before taking the mound again.
The following inning was when Moreland connected for the first Texas hit. Neither Hunter nor center fielder Austin Jackson had much of a shot at Moreland’s drive. Still, this was much better than Verlander’s outing at Texas on May 16, when he allowed eight runs and didn’t get out of the third inning.
Verlander has been overshadowed a bit this year by fellow Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer, who is a strong candidate to start Tuesday night’s All-Star game at Citi Field in New York. But Verlander showed Sunday why he too was an All-Star.
He received a nice ovation from the home crowd after the first Texas hit, and another one when he came back to the dugout at the end of the inning.
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