Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Verlander, con't

Was talking to someone today about last night's no hitter because it still excites me. The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in front of a Detroit crowd might have been Nolan Ryan but the last Detroit pitcher to do it was someone called “Fire” Truck, some 50-odd years ago. And this someone was old enough to remember it. Just like I'm probably going to remember Verlander's gem for some time to come.

Truth is, there aren't that many no-hitters from Tigers history. The one Verlander threw the other night was only the sixth. There are pitchers who have more no nos than that all by themselves. It's a rare thing. A special thing.

Any no hitter is the result of luck more than anything else, of course. Everything has to fall into place even though, statistically speaking, they're not really all that rare and extraordinary. Something like stealing home or an inside the park home run is a lot more difficult to pull off. But there's this mystique about the pitcher, an aura around them and when they can string together nine innings like that, it's memorable.

True to form, there were several key defensive plays made by the other eight Tigers on the field. Ones that saved Verlander's shutout. Without Perez playing back, maybe that ball squirts out of the infield. Without Ordonez racing, sliding, willing himself to grab that fly, maybe it falls to the ground. A dozen maybes, a ton of possible potentials, where the game could have played out some other way. You could say the same thing about any no-hitter.

But the thing is, last night felt right. This wasn't a fluke no-hitter. This wasn't the result of some pitcher who'd played long enough and well enough to get a string of lucky breaks. This was Verlander living up to potential. He dominated last night. Struck out 12 when he's not really the type of pitcher who fans a lot of batters. Threw a fastball that broke the 100mph barrier with such control and precision it might as well have been laser guided. Threw a changeup that had the Brewers breaking their backs trying to adjust. A curveball that hung and dipped as they chased it into the dirt. Not only did he throw a mere 112 pitches, only three balls were even hit out of the infield. The whole game. Verlander had his foot on their necks the entire time.

And he's only 24. This is a pitcher in his prime. This is a guy who's going to be around the league for years to come (Barring some kind of accident or injury, of course). Detroit fans might not have thought he could pull off a no-hitter but that's only because we've seen so few of them. Now that he has, now that we know he's capable of it, we'll be counting the days until his next one. Because he's got that potential, he's got that ability, he might not be able to pitch at the top of his game every start but when he does...

Also, here's a nice piece by Jerry Crasnick echoing my thoughts. As you might expect, the Detroit papers are full of gushing articles, go search for them yourself if you don't believe me, but this is national stuff. It's the sort of saccharine praise that if it were about another player, another team I'd roll my eyes. But, you know, it's different when it's your guys.

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