The Detroit Tigers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-0. But that is not the big story, not even remotely close. The story was Justin Verlander's near miss at making history. Verlander tossed 8 1/3 no-hit innings, coming this damn close to the the 3rd no-hitter of his career. Josh Harrison broke up the no-hitter with 1 out in the 9th on a no-doubt single to center.
Verlander was the winning pitcher, his 51st straight start of 6 innings or more, raising his record to 5-1. He allowed just the 1 hit, walking 2, striking out 12. Charlie Morton took the loss, dropping to 2-4. Delmon Young led the Tigers with 2 hits and 3 RBI, including a solo home run. Jhonny Peralta added 3 hits.
Verlander's night started innocuously enough, walking the Pirates 2nd batter, Neil Walker. Verlander then went into in beast mode, retiring the next 18 Pirates. Suddenly a mid-May game between a pair of under .500 teams was no longer just another game.
The Tigers got on the board early, a nice palate cleanser after the Twins series debacle. With 1 out in the 1st, silly hot at the plate Andy Dirks lined a single to center. The middle of the order muscle, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, followed with run scoring doubles, giving Verlander a 2-0 lead. The Tigers loaded the bases, but could not get that damned 2 out hit. As Verlander had electric stuff, 2 runs was all he would need.
The Tigers added 2 more runs in the 4th, as everything was coming up...Delmon? Yes, the much derided Young crushed a lead off home run to deep left. Of course, it was on a pitch out of the strike zone. But he smashed it out of the park, nonetheless. Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch kept the rally going with singles (Boesch's hitting streak is now at a career high 11 games). In a reference you heard all game and will be sick of by end of the weekend, Don Kelly lined a single over the head of his brother-in-law, Pirates 2nd baseman Neil Walker, plating Avila. Kelly came through with the much rumored, though rarely seen, 2 out hit with runners in scoring position. 4-0 Tigers, and Verlander was in control.
Kelly also contributed on defense in a big way. After a long run, Kelly made fine catch to haul in Josh Harrison's deep fly to left cente, keeping Verlander's shot at a no-hitter alive.
The Pirates had their 2nd base runner of the game in the 7th. Andrew McCutchen worked a 3-2 count, then took ball 4. It was Verlander's second 3 ball count, and second base on balls. McCuthcen did make it to scoring position, advancing to 2nd on a fielder's choice. But Verlander retired Garrett Jones on a breaking ball which dropped off the proverbial table, his 9th strikeout, ending any chance at a threat.
The Tigers added even more insurance in the bottom of the inning, as everything continued to come up...Delmon? Yes, Delmon. After Kelly walked and Fielder singled, Young's 2 RBI double in the left center gap gave the Tigers an insurmountable 6-0 lead. Well, 2-0 was insurmountable. When Verlander is this good, 6-0 is just piling on.
Verlander turned up the wick in the 8th. Dominant doesn't begin to describe the inning.Casey McGehee stared at a 97 MPH fastball for the first out. Walker worked a 3-2 count, the stuck out on a 99 MPH fastball. Verlander's first pitch to Clint Barmes hit 100. The 4th pitch to Barmes was a wicked breaking ball in the dirt, which he waved at weakly. Verlander struck out the side, K's 10, 11 and 12.
In the 9th, Verlander was scheduled to face Michael McKenry, Harrison. and Walker, the 9th, 1st and 2nd batters in the Pirates order.
McKenry grounded out 6-3. 2 outs to go.
Harrison waved at a pair of absolutely evil breaking balls in the dirt, fouled of a pitch, laid off an inside curve...then reached out and lined a soft single just past Peralta into center.
There would be no no-no. Verlander ended the game on a pair of ground outs, then received a raucous standing ovation from the Comerica Park crowd thanking him for a masterful performance.
This just in. Breaking news: Justin Verlander is good at baseball.