At one point it seemed inevitable. After Verlander twirled his second no-hitter, a near perfect game, one Saturday afternoon in May 2011, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would throw another. He nearly threw one against the Angels later that year. Nearly no-hit the Pirates a year later. He was the best pitcher in baseball with the no-hitterest stuff in the game. We know the rest.
Verlander struggled during the middle of 2013, wasn’t healthy and struggled mightily in 2014, and spent most of the first half of this year on the shelf. The aging erstwhile ace didn’t necessarily look done, but his days atop the league were over. Yet over the last month, he’s pitched very well and has quietly started to look more like a pitcher who could make an impact again in the future.
Tonight, the Verlander who demanded our attention every fifth day came back to us. I won’t suggest that this start means he’s back or that he’ll be great. Even the last 7 starts don’t mean that. This start is a proof of concept. A reminder, and evidence that he still has the ability to have nights like these. He had heat, and he was able to locate it.
The guys in the modern era with three or more no-hitters? Cy Young, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan. It’s a short list that nearly included Justin Verlander. The other four are Hall of Famers. Verlander’s shot at that honor looked like a long one two months ago, but it’s a bit more plausible today.
A no-htter itself is more of a fun-fact than a real event. Verlander walked two batters before he allowed the hit, but for good measure he erased them on double plays. It was a brilliant start whether he allowed one hit or none, and it came at a nadir for the organization.
It’s been a long, grueling, depressing season for Tigers fans. Tonight, baseball was fun and it was nice to feel like it mattered again, even if it was only for a few hours.