Detroit Tigers fans joke about the possibility of seeing a no-hitter nearly every time ace Justin Verlander takes the mound, even in the “tumultuous” season he’s having. They know their All-Star pitcher hasn’t been on top of his game over the first half of the season, but they also know it’s always a possibility.
Verlander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers Sunday because of his breaking pitches. The Rangers are loaded with solid fastball hitters like Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre, and Verlander took advantage of it. He kept them off balance with curveballs and change ups early in counts and saved his fastballs for finishing off at-bats.
In the past, Verlander has done most of his damage with his fastball, but Sunday was a different story. His curves and breaking pitches were the ones he relied on to get strikes and get ahead in the count. His best outings this season have come when he chooses not to try to beat hitters with fastballs. Sunday was his fourth start of the season in which he has allowed three hits or fewer in at least six innings of work.
He still possesses the ability to dominate a game, and just needs to go about it a different way than he has in the past.
The Tigers ended up taking two of three games against the Rangers behind Verlander’s gem. They’ll head into the All-Star break 10 games over .500 with a 1.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians.