Ryan Braun remembers Justin Verlander's first no-hitter. He was there.
So no, Braun wasn't surprised to see Verlander throw a second no-hitter last Saturday in Toronto. And no, Braun won't be surprised if some day Verlander throws another one.
"Any starting pitcher who is throwing 100 [mph] in the eighth inning or the ninth inning should put himself in position to throw a no-hitter sometime," Braun said this week. "As far as dominant stuff goes, he's as good as any pitcher I've ever seen."
Braun saw Verlander's first no-hitter, in June 2007, but he didn't play in the game. He was in his first weeks in the major leagues, and Brewers manager Ned Yost gave him that night off.
Yost now manages the Royals, which means he'll see Verlander again on Friday night, in the Tiger right-hander's first start since no-hitting the Blue Jays.
Verlander has great history against the Royals, including throwing his first big-league shutout in Kansas City in 2006. He's 10-2 in 16 career starts against the Royals, with a 2.58 ERA.
He's never thrown a no-hitter against them. Not yet.
"On his good days, he's at the top of the league stuff-wise," said Craig Counsell, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Verlander's first no-hitter. "And he's able to maintain that special velocity through the game."
Despite his success against the Royals, this Kansas City team may not be the most likely opponent if you're looking for another Verlander no-hitter. Current Royals players have hit a combined .312 against Verlander, with Billy Butler one of Verlander's toughest opponents at .406 (13-for-32).
And how did Verlander do in his first start after his first no-hitter?
Not bad. He beat the Phillies, 7-4, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings. But there was no real no-hit threat, as Verlander allowed a second-inning single to Abraham Nunez.
On to 3 to watch:
1. The American League Central could be getting interesting, now that the Tigers have won eight of their last nine and the White Sox have won four of their last five. The Tigers are now just percentage points behind the second-place Royals, going into the series that will begin with Verlander against Luke Hochevar in Royals at Tigers, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park.
2. The last time the Red Sox sent Josh Beckett to the mound against the Yankees, they were 1-7 and it already felt like must-win time. Things aren't as desperate now. Then again, the Sox just lost two in a row in Toronto, John Lackey gave up nine runs, and once again Boston is three games under .500. And they're in New York. So yeah, maybe it is must win, especially when Beckett takes the mound against CC Sabathia for Red Sox at Yankees, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Yankee Stadium.
3. It's Cardinals-Reds time again, so that means it's time for more interesting tweets from Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, right? As of late Thursday afternoon, there hadn't been any, but we'll keep watching, all the way through Cardinals at Reds, Sunday afternoon (1:10 ET) at Great American Ball Park. As of now, the Cardinals are still saying that Sunday's game is the last one that ailing manager Tony La Russa will definitely miss, but stay tuned on that, too. Meanwhile, acting manager Joe Pettini did his part to play down the importance of this series, saying Thursday, "It's early in the year, so it's just another series."