By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – After a first half that largely paled in comparison to his recent seasons, Justin Verlander reminded everyone of his capabilities by flirting with a no-hitter Sunday, his last start before the All-Star break.
Even more impressive, the Detroit Tigers ace pitched six and two-thirds innings of no-hit baseball without his best stuff.
“My stuff wasn’t great,” Verlander said. “My off-speed wasn’t very good at all today, but my saving grace was I had good fastball control.
“Didn’t get a lot of strikeouts – obviously a lot of strikeouts come with good off-speed – your fastball sets up your off-speed and your off-speed sets up your fastball to strike guys out, so didn’t get a lot of punch-outs because my stuff, my off-speed especially wasn’t very crisp,” Verlander continued, “but I was able to locate my fastball and get guys to hit – they hit a couple hard, but the ones they did put in play were usually kind of weak and either popped it up or rolled it over or hit a ground ball just because of the location.”
Verlander, who threw no-hitters June 12, 2007, and May 7, 2011, said he would have gone back out for the eighth inning to try for another no-no even though he was already at 105 pitches and was feeling tightness in his right quad.
Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta said he did not even realize Verlander was approaching a no-hitter, and Verlander verified Peralta’s testimony.
“I knew Peralta didn’t know when the double was hit and the ball came in and everybody started cheering, and Peralta caught the ball and looked up at the board, checking the hits,” Verlander said with a grin and a laugh. “That’s when I knew he didn’t know. I was like, ‘Come on, Jhonny!’”
Verlander, who finished out the first half with a 3.50 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, has not looked like himself this season, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland is fully confident in Verlander.
“Justin Verlander is a stuff guy,” Leyland said. “You’re trying to learn how to become better as a pitcher, but that you can’t take it so far that you’re going to try to be more of pitcher type guy than a stuff guy because he’s a stuff guy. That’s my personal opinion.
Despite Verlander’s lesser numbers this season, Leyland said Verlander’s stuff is the same as it has always been.
“The stuff is there without question,” Leyland added. “I’m not worried about the stuff.”