After a Cy Young and MVP season in 2011 and falling four votes shy of another Cy Young in 2012, the first half of 2013 had been anything but kind to Justin Verlander; but on Sunday, the Detroit Tigers’ ace finished the first half in style.
The 30-year-old right hander flirted with a no-hitter in a 5-0 victory against the Texas Rangers. He took a no-no with two outs into the 7th inning when Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland doubled into the outfield. It was the first time a Ranger had reached past first base.Sunday was hardly the most dominant performance people had ever seen from Verlander. Depsite allowing just one hit, he also served up 3 walks against 3 strikeouts and reaching 100 pitches into the 7th. His strikeout to walk ratio wasn’t the most impressive, but he got the job done. He would exit after the 7th on a tight right quad.
His performance had many wondering if we were going to see his 3rd career no-no. He had previously tossed one against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 and against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. It had all the makings of a no-hitter, such as an excellent defensive play that Matt Tuiasosopo made in left field by recovering and catching a Nelson fly ball off the wrong foot in the top of the 4th.
If he would’ve gotten the no-no, it would’ve been the second straight day a no-hitter was thrown, as Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants tossed a 9-0, 13 strikeout performance against the San Diego Padres Saturday night. Lincecum threw 148 pitches, which was one shy of tying the record for most pitches thrown in a no-hitter. Edwin Jackson pitched a no-no for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 on 149 pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays.
For the record, despite Verlander being the story of the day, Martin Perez of the Rangers was just as good for a while as well. It wasn’t until the bottom of the 6th in which the game got out of hand. For the first five innings, only 3 hits came, all from the Tigers and all were solo home runs off the 22-year-old Venezueland lefty.
Torii Hunter destroyed a ball that got over the left field wall in the bottom of the 1st. Then in the bottom of the 4th, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta hit back-to-back jacks that carried over left field and right field, respectively. Both men had hit their 8th shot of the season and in the case of Martinez, it was his first big fly against a left handed pitcher this season.
Hunter also scored a run in the bottom of the 6th from second in which Peralta singled him home and then Tuiasosopo added with a single that led to Miguel Cabrera crossing home plate.
The Tigers’ bullpen did an excellent job in the 8th and 9th inning to shut the door. Drew Smyly looked really good in the top of the 8th and he and Joaquin Benoit combined to finish out the 9th. Benoit ended the game by sending Moreland down on strikes.
The announcers on TBS discussed what it would take for the Tigers to get back to the World Series and they mentioned the need for bullpen help, but one wouldn’t think that on Sunday based on the performances of Smyly and Benoit. Remember last year that Phil Coke replaced Jose Valverde in the ALCS against the New York Yankees and had an argument to be named MVP of the series. The 35-year-old Benoit currently had 8 saves, a 259 ERA+ and 1.062 WHIP going into Sunday’s game. So, who knows if General Manager Dave Dombrowski even needs to make a move, or if Detroit wants to see what Benoit can do in the closer’s role?
As a result of this contest, Verlander improved to 10 wins against 6 losses, while 3 game winner Perez suffered his 2nd defeat of the season. After Max Scherzer suffered his first loss of the season the night before in a 7-1 defeat, Detroit rebounded to take two of three from Texas and now sit at 52-42 and first place in the AL Central going into the All Star break, while the Rangers are 54-41 and just slightly trail the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.