Last time someone threw a no-hitter in the city of Detroit, the late, funny, former Tigers first baseman Norm Cash brought a table leg to home plate.
|Justin Verlander's teammates give him a celebratory splash of shaving cream after the game. (AP)|
Milwaukee's Prince Fielder did not dismantle any tables or saw off any legs Tuesday during Justin Verlander's dazzling night. Nor did J.J. Hardy, Craig Counsell or any of their Brewers teammates.
Even though, on this night, they had about as much chance as Cash with his piece of furniture.
Verlander is difficult enough to hit when his 99 mph heater is crackling and sizzling like a steak on the grill.
But on those nights when he is commanding his big, hard curve to go along with it?
Verlander called it the "best thing that ever happened to me" and, at the very least, we can say this:
So much for the dreaded sophomore slump.
So far, Verlander is even better in 2007 than he was in 2006 -- which is about like saying that Miss America 1988, Michigan's Kaye Lani Raye Rafko, was even more gorgeous in 1989. Is it even fair?
Verlander's ERA, 2.79, is even better than the 3.63 he posted a year ago that led to a 17-9 record, a World Series appearance and the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year award.
He's holding opponents to a .231 batting average this season as opposed to .266 a year ago.
Remember how much difficulty those Chicago White Sox pitchers had last summer in following up their World Series title? To a man they took a step back, and Mark Buehrle, who preceded Verlander by throwing the first no-no of '07 in April, admitted that October 2005 sapped him in 2006.
Verlander, conversely, has been even better despite the added workload of last October (21 2/3 postseason innings added to his regular season log of 186 innings pitched).
It's an excellent sign for the Tigers, who entered play Tuesday night trailing Cleveland by only a game in the AL Central despite the fact that Kenny Rogers has yet to throw a pitch for them in '07 (he's expected back within the next month) and that the Detroit bullpen has been a colossal disappointment.
And while reading the signs, it didn't take Detroit fans long to note on various message boards that the last time a Tigers pitcher fired a no-hitter, the team went on to win themselves a World Series that year.
It was Jack Morris in 1984, and on a cold Saturday afternoon in old Comiskey Park he dispatched the Chicago White Sox 4-0. Morris was very good that day, but wasn't as dominant as Verlander on Tuesday. Morris fanned eight that afternoon, including Ron Kittle to end the game, and walked six.
Verlander, whose no-hitter was the sixth in Tigers history, struck out 12 and walked only four. That's the stuff of dominant legends like Randy Johnson -- who fanned 13 Atlanta Braves when he threw his only career no-hitter on May 18, 2004.
It was the first no-hitter ever thrown in Detroit's Comerica Park, a mile down the street and a million memories away from glorious old Tiger Stadium -- where Prince Fielder spent so much time as a kid when his father, Cecil, was pounding baseballs into the upper deck.
Thanks to Verlander, young Prince no doubt never will forget his first major league game in Detroit.
And ... was that the voice of legendary umpire Ron Luciano echoing through the years, scolding Cash, ordering him to return to the dugout and retrieve a regulation bat?