Justin Verlander ('04) Tosses Second Major League No Hitter
May 7, 2011
TORONTO -- Former ODU pitching great Justin Verlander (ODU'04) pitched his second Major League no-hitter of his career and the seventh in Detroit Tiger franchise history leading the Tigers past the Blue Jays, 9-0, on Saturday.
Verlander already had one no-hitter in his career -- against the Milwaukee Brewers during Interleague Play on June 12, 2007, at Comerica Park. He is the 28th pitcher with more than one, including the postseason.
Verlander pitched for the Monarchs from 2002-04 where he won 21 career games and is the all-time strikeout king in ODU, the Colonial Athletic Association and the Commonwealth of Virginia history with 427 in only 335.2 innings of work for an average of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I was pretty pumped up, actually, having gone through it before -- I was able to recall that," Verlander said of his thought process during the ninth inning. "I was really trying to keep my nerves settled a bit and did as much as I could. Obviously, there was some adrenaline still going.
"What was really nice was that the first batter, [David] Cooper, I got an out on the first pitch, which was really able to calm me down a little bit."
Verlander lost a perfect game with one out in the eighth inning, but a double-play grounder meant he had still faced the minimum 24 batters through eight innings and 98 pitches.
When the Blue Jays did hit a ball hard, the defense was there to protect the bid for history.
"I wanted to get back out there," Verlander said, referring to the delay between the bottom of the eighth and bottom of the ninth due to the Tigers' two-run top of the ninth. "To be honest with you, I was pretty relaxed. I felt pretty comfortable. I was just happy to have our guys get going. Obviously, some guys can use the hits; I was more than happy for those guys."
Mike McCoy, who entered the game when Adam Lind left with lower back tightness in the seventh inning, threatened Verlander's bid at history by opening the eighth inning with a lineout to center.
Verlander lost his perfect game when J.P. Arencibia walked after a 12-pitch at-bat with one out in the eighth. But Edwin Encarnacion hit into a double play to keep the no-hitter going.
Verlander remained perfect after five innings on a call at first that brought Toronto manager John Farrell out of the dugout to argue. Encarnacion hit a sharply struck ball that bounced off Verlander, who retrieved the ball to the third-base side of the mound and threw to first, where Encarnacion was called out by umpire C.B. Bucknor to end the inning.
"The only thing that bothered me was that Encarnacion hit a ball off my arm early in the game," Verlander said. "Going into the ninth there, the first few warmup pitches didn't feel so hot."
Verlander was using his fastball, slider and changeup to great effect. The right-hander dropped in the curveball at times, keeping his pitch count under control -- 56 through five innings -- as shadows formed over home plate with the roof open for the first time this season.
"I really feel like I established a good rhythm early on," Verlander said. "After my last start, me and [pitching coach] Rick [Knapp], we said if I can harness the stuff that I had in that start, and ... I was able to do that today. Early in the game, I slowed way down, throwing 92, 93, 94 [mph] and established a rhythm with myself."
The next close call came in the sixth, when Rajai Davis -- who struck out to end the game -- lined out to first base to end the sixth with the perfect game intact.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta picked a sharp one-hopper off the bat of Yunel Escobar to start the seventh inning.
With two outs in the seventh, Verlander reached his first three-ball count of the game, going to 3-1 on Juan Rivera. Rivera fouled off two pitches before Rivera grounded back to the pitcher, keeping the perfect game alive.
Before the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland lamented the lack of early runs scored by the Tigers this season, perhaps preventing Detroit's starting pitchers from having a chance to relax.
After the first six Tigers batters were retired, Leyland got his wish when the Tigers scored three in the third inning -- an unusual rally that included a balk, a hit batsman, a run-scoring walk, a run-scoring wild pitch and a disputed pickoff at second.
It started with Ryan Raburn's single. Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero was called for a balk, putting Raburn at second. Alex Avila was hit by a breaking ball and Raburn was picked off second, a call that brought Leyland from the visitors' dugout to argue.
Brandon Inge followed by drawing a walk. Austin Jackson singled to load the bases, and Romero walked Scott Sizemore to force in a run. A wild pitch scored another run, and Magglio Ordonez grounded out to shortstop to score the third run.
Jhonny Peralta hit his second homer of the season with one out in the fourth. Raburn then doubled and Avila hit his sixth homer of the season to end Romero's outing.
Old Dominion University retired Verlander's jersey on Nov. 12th in the Constant Center during the men's basketball game against Georgetown.
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.